The Champagne, To Golden Gardens (The Champagne, 2005)

The Champagne came to my attention because I know the brother of singer/keyboardist Brian Sullivan from nerdnyc.com. This trio from Long Island was formed out of the remains of a group that played locally for years without making it. They have adopted an indifferent (at least on the surface) attitude towards their own chances of success, and are basically doing what they want to for the hell of it. In particular, Sullivan, drummer Gabe Kreiser, and bassist/guitarist Peter Mowdy have embraced old-school progressive rock -- "prog is the new punk," as they say on stage -- with a touch of 80's new wave and some modern stylings thrown in for good measure.

Their debut CD To Golden Gardens contains fifty-five minutes of music, alternating between songs and instrumentals. One of my pet peeves when listening to an album, though, is when it runs well over forty or forty-five minutes but only has twenty or so minutes of quality. Unfortunately this is the case here. A couple of the tracks sound like goofing off for the sake of goofing off, and adversely affect the presentability of the album. This is exasperating, because some of The Champagne's material really does have promise. The upbeat songs "Mazatlán" and "For The Kids" are both listenable and danceable enough to get on underground radio. The Champagne also demonstrates a proficiency with long instrumentals, even pulling off a ten-minute track with "The Twentieth Century," which builds up nicely to a killer climax featuring guest guitarist Michael Cosgrove.

Still, listening to To Golden Gardens was ultimately a frustrating experience. The band has half of a solid album in place, but the other half of this disc is at best aimless, to the point of getting in the way of the more inspired material. Less would have definitely been more here.

Overall grade: C+

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