Have you ever purchased a new guitar multi-effects box or rack unit that has lots of preset sound combinations that sound really cool yet are so wigged-out that they could never possibly be used in any song not composed by John Cage? Yeah, me too. Common Children, a three-piece melodic modern guitar rock band from Nashville, have taken up this challenge with incredible results.
The aggressive "Throw Me Over" starts the show nicely with sizzling guitars and a spongy bass that anchors the song to keep it from dissipating in a fury of distortion. The song which first caught my attention is the explosive "Hate". Hints of Nirvana can be found in the volatile chorus where guitarist/vocalist Marc Byrd screams "I hate myself" above a growing din of feedback and noise that culminates this ode to self-loathing. The title track is more laid back, being pop enough for radio but eclectic enough to keep it interesting with flanged, distorted guitars rumbling behind a chorus of vocal harmonies.
The experimental "Dual Lens" opens with spacey, echoing guitars in an extended instrumental intro that gives way to acoustic guitars and vocals that shimmer into oblivion. Backing vocals by Riki Michele add a new timbre that proceeds a section of strained guitars and eerily calm nighttime silence. "Drought" is a bass-driven manifesto that grabs your gut and refuses to let go, taking you hostage through a solo section incorporating a mega-whacked guitar tone. In stark contrast is "Broken Smile", a simple, somber song of acoustic guitar, vocals and (later) strings and light percussion.
While more rock oriented and less experimental than their The Inbetween Time release, Skywire is an effective mixture of driving, distorted rock and edgy, psychedelic soundscapes. Of the twelve tracks, at least half blow the rusty hinges off your creative modern rock lovin' mind. The other six are merely good, which I guess is not a bad average in an industry that often puts out one good song surrounded by filler. With lyrics that are honest, raw and real combined with inventive, edgy, aggressive guitar-driven music, I know I'll be looking forward to the next release by Common Children.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, July 2002.