There is a fine line between genius and insanity, and David Champagne stomps all over that sucker with every album! On the latest installment of his socially and spiritually charged songbook, “Agnostic Gospel II: Bad Choices Make Good Stories,” Champagne offers further proof of this aesthetic balancing act. And this became resoundingly clear at his CD’s advance release party Feb. 1 at Club Passim.
Due out officially in March, “Agnostic Gospel II: Bad Choices Make Good Stories,” is completely different take than the 2013 release of Vol. 1, jangling with a punk energy, but it’s just as wryly deep, thought-provoking and intelligent. And although Champagne does all the lead vocals on this one, it still feels like different voices of an eclectic chorus. As Champagne notes, this is the “existential side’’ of the definition of agnostic — more the noncommittal sect than nonbeliever. As he sings in the title song, “Bad people make good stories/Oh, God, so many voices” … All those voices are swimming inside David Champagne’s head, and they come pouring out here.
It doesn’t have much in the way of the lighter moments of Vol. 1. Instead, it is a raw-nerved, and raucous testament to the times with electric energy and soul-waking sound that is at times both darkly pensive and ferociously explosive.
At the Passim pre-release show, Champagne was joined on stage by Dave Godowsky (guitar, ukulele, backing vocals), wife Katie Champagne (vocals), Dinty Child (mandolin, keyboards), Barry Rothman (surreal turntables), Dietrich Strause (keyboards and a co-producer of the album), Mark Chenevert (saxophone) and Steve Morrell (drums).
While many listeners initially seemed taken aback by the sharp departure in sound and style from Volume 1, it wasn’t long before Champagne pulled them all in with his sonic fury. Like a preacher at the pulpit, the quirky co-founder of Boston blues-rock band Treat Her Right, along with the late Mark Sandman, has a distinct skill in pulling people in with the passion of his message.
At top, David Champagne preaches “Agnostic Gospel II” from the Passim stage. Gallery, clockwise from top left, David Champagne, Katie Champagne, Barry Rothman, Champagne and David Godowski, Dinty Child, Steve Morrell.