COMMON CHILDREN
Delicate Fade (Tattoo Records)

By Robert Gruber

Much has been made of Common Children's "new sound"--a switch from the more full-on rock assault of their '96 debut Skywire. Produced again by the Choir's Steve Hindalong, Common Children have taken on many of that band's more mellow, atmospheric qualities.

Consider 'Stains of Time', the opening track. A bittersweet cello swirls about, before plaintive electric guitar comes in to carry the lyric, "the stains of time still mark us/standing in the aftermath of grace...". Marc Byrd has a voice like Paul Westerberg--on the scraggly side, but just tender enough to connect emotionally. The single, 'Eyes of God' is a 3-chord hit, underpinned by acoustic guitar and low bass. 'Blue Raft' and 'Storm Boy' both seem to drift along on moodiness and reverby guitar. Lest you think that Common Children has gone totally over the hill, though, there are barnstormers like 'Indiscreet', 'Burn' and the Soul Asylum-ish 'Pulse'.

It hurts to say it, but this is another one of those great albums that probably won't be heard by a lot of people. 'Poseur' bands are what's hot today, and mediocrity (as we can see from the recent Grammy nominations) is what most people want, which means that Common Children are simply too good. There is hope, though--every once in a while, a good one slips through.