Common Children – Delicate Fade

Today is a cold, rainy day, and I was outside for a good portion of it. It also rained in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where my sister resides, and when I posed the question “What should I write about today?” she replied “something rainy”, so I picked the rainiest album that both her and I have enjoyed for many years, and is personally one of my top favorite albums:

Ah crap, someone spilled water all over the awesome painting of a giraffe making love to a squid

If you haven’t heard of Common Children, it’s quite all right, no-one has. They started in the mid-90’s as some bored musicians in Arkansas decided to rock out some progressive-flavored Christian pop/rock in the form of an album called Skywire, to at least enough success that there would be an even more popular follow-up album. Though I fully plan on talking about Skywire at a later time, it’s not as rainy of an album as Delicate Fade and anyway this is the album I heard first.

This album is put together really well as far as albums go. It combines ambient, artistic songs with hard-edged rock and even some early punk influence, and it spreads them out evenly enough to where the album’s rather hefty 1 hour and 9 minutes doesn’t get too boring. Like many albums of epic length (or epic albums of a much shorter length), it has an introductory track, an intermission track, and almost ends on a slow note, right after the lengthy jam, but not quite. Personally, this is about the best way to put together an album that can stand the test of time, in my opinion, but my opinion is very frequently wrong.

What I’m not wrong about, however, is that the album starts off with a lovely string arrangement with the song “Stains Of Time”. It becomes quickly apparent that the lyrics by one Marc Byrd are rather abstract and don’t really seem to be remotely connected with anything that makes sense. For this reason, one may argue that this isn’t a very “Christian” band for being a Christian band. If you read through the text, however, you’ll find enough references to make a solid connection, but until then there’s no much point talking about the lyrics.

With “Delicate Fade”, we’re introduced to the full band sound, and what a sound! Basically, it’s the ambient, arpeggio-driven guitar of Marc Byrd combined with a really unique bass player, Drew Powell, and the drummer, who has a very hard name to spell (Hampton Taliaferro), and tends to favor cadences and a lighter touch instead of total rocking out, at least until the entire band starts rocking out. It’s clear that there’s some jazz influence going on here, and that almost always translates to excellent rocking. With this track in particular, there’s a bit of a bass solo, and we’re given a closer listen to Drew’s style, which is more melodic than anything (and you know how I feel about melodic bass), and his playing style is very tough to decipher. Basically, it’s lightly distorted bass (weee) and he doesn’t actually sound like he’s playing it, it’s almost like he’s just moving around the frets without picking, but it could also be the effects. Either way, I rip this guy off all the time in my own bass playing, so I think about it often.

The next song is called “Indiscreet” and it’s the first of at least 3 examples of the band rocking out. It starts out innocently enough with phase-shifting guitars and Marc’s whispery vocals, but after the song’s bridge, suddenly there’s a great deal of screaming out the lyrics and the guitars are layered and distorted to the point where the whole thing becomes rather intense, and I like that.

Of course, to dispel the rockingness, we have the song “Eyes Of God”, an indisputably spiritual song but with a lyrical edge based in some of the more depressed states of existence, such as bicycling around a big city in the rain. It’s a great song, and actually gets a sequel in the way of an acoustic remix as the last track on the album. I don’t know why it has a sequel that is basically the exact same song, only acoustic, in the back of the album, I guess the band figured, after 1 hour and 9 minutes, either no-one would notice or they would have forgotten about this song by then.

We then get “Burn” which takes the screaming part of “Indiscreet”, adds in a punk-based (but still fancy) beat, and makes a whole song about it. It wouldn’t do to rock out for two songs in a row, however, so the mid-tempo and quite groovy “Firefly” follows this song. This song features some more great distorted bass with a different distortion and everything!

Probably one of the most “standard” rock songs on the album is the track “So Dream”, but like all the songs so far, is still great. I don’t know what it is about this track, however, but everything I listen to it on distorts during the chorus. Maybe the CD was mixed badly, maybe I ripped it badly to .mp3, maybe all my headphones are broken when it comes to this song? I don’t know.

Wrapping up the trilogy of screamy, fantastic punk songs on this album is “Pulse”, which has a beat that reminds me a lot of early English punk like Nine Below Zero, only reverb and distorted bass has been added. I couldn’t be happier with this song, in fact, this is probably my favorite song on the album. The end is entirely screaming (with an accapella “IT DOESN’T MATTER NOW” which is always written in caps, even in the liner notes, if I recall).

Of course, after that is the “Reprise”, which takes a lot of the words from earlier in the album and throws them against some very ambient guitar. Soothing!

We then have a few songs that are in roughly the same style, moody and alternative, but smooth and relaxing. First is “Whisper”, then “Strange Rain”, which includes a nice low-key violin solo, and then “Drift”, the first instance of overt acoustic guitar playing on the album.

Then comes the 11 minute jam song (I detect some Smashing Pumpkins influence here). It’s called “Blue Raft” and for a while was my favorite song basically ever. It is nothing more than two chords until the verse (which isn’t terribly complicated either), but the very spiritual, poetic lyrics and interesting fill-heavy bass-line keep this dreamy song going. If you were wondering how this could be considered a “jam” song, just wait the several minutes to second chorus, after which a wall of effect-laden guitars jam out, only instead of using scales and crunch, use slides, effects, and after-fret high notes to play searing solos that almost register above human hearing as far as shrillness is concerned. It’s really fun, and after they all calm down and another verse and chorus plays, they do it again. Did I, as a just-learning 15 year old guitarist, learn how to replicate these solos note-for-note using nothing more than a slide and too much reverb? Why yes I did.

Finally, we have “Storm Boy”, a quite sad song about growing up with a “complicated” family and keeping your mind away from the abject misery that such a thing can provide. It’s a very slow song as well, but has its own worth in having a very pretty, haunting melody.

Then the remade “Eyes Of God II” and that’s it. I’d like to see the rainfall that could beat out an album of this length, and I’d like to be listening to this album while watching that rainfall. If you don’t mind a bit of Christianity in your music, I definitely give this album a recommendation, as it’s one of the top-ranking albums in my invisible top 10 list of Christian Albums you should listen to. Oh, and I should mention while I’ve got you here, in case you’ve been paying attention to my earlier articles, this album was made in 1997, which I have pointed out time and time again was a very good year for Christian Rock.

Alternately, you could listen to “Hammock”, Marc Byrd’s post-Common Children music which should be available somewhere on the secular market. I’ve never heard it, but I am going to check it out at some point, and maybe at that time I will write about it and then YOU will have heard about it!

Enjoy the rain!

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5 Responses

  1. Awwww, I love this album 🙂

    I kind of want to listen to it now, but I’m at work and I can’t…

  2. Man, I was just searching the internet for a copy of this disc – I loved this album but lost it awhile back. It really is a great record.

    Good work.

    c.

  3. Both albums are available on eMusic. Haven’t listened but saw them there and was doing research on the band. Cheers!

    • Right on! Thanks Todd, I have picked up many albums from eMusic whenever they give me free tracks. Of course, there was that time where they started charging me monthly despite my having canceled the service and I had to call them, that wasn’t so hot.

  4. […] back at that time, as I’ve said before, 1997 was a VERY good year for Christian music. While most of my favorite albums that came out that year have been long forgotten, it was a great year for […]

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