|Setlist Limited Collectors CD
Artist: Common Children
Label: Tatoo Records 1997
Time: 19 tracks/58:33
I got this promotional CD at a Common Children concert (the only way to get it, as far as I know). It was a good show, the CD was only eight bucks...I couldn't refuse! The disc contains "So Dream" and "Burn" from Delicate Fade, a little commercial track which tells you to go buy the new album, and a live show recorded back in December '96. The live songs are: "Throw Me Over," "Pulse," "Wishing Well," "Hate," "Skywire," "Drought," "Dual Lens," "Domesticity," "Man," "Drown," and "Last Time Out." With the exception of "Pulse," all of these songs are from their first album, Skywire.
The band takes time during the show to explain some songs, including the semi-controversial "Hate" (it's really about the flesh and the struggle that you go through when you are giving into the flesh). Musically, this is one band that shines when playing live. Everything just sounds so good, it's scary. With fast songs like "Pulse" and "Hate," you really get a dose of the energy these guys have live. If you're a big fan of Common Children, then this is the ultimate birthday gift. If you're a casual fan or could care less about the band, this won't change your mind.
Among the myriad loud modern rock bands out there, Common Children is a cut above the rest both stylistically and energetically. They have two albums to prove they rock with the best of them, and can keep their creative caps on besides. Between their first two official albums, 1996's Sky Wire and 1997's Delicate Fade, they released a promotional disc called Set List. The two studio cuts on it are from Delicate Fade, but, oddly, not the best or even most representative cuts from that album. The rest of Set List is taken from a live show recorded at the Murray Hill Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida on December 28, 1996 by Ed Ferri. Of the eleven live cuts, only "Pulse" is from Delicate Fade, and the other ten are from Sky Wire, including stand outs and radio hits like "Throw Me Over," "Wishing Well" and "Hate." The mix is adequate and the energy addictive. With only a few photos, the packaging is a bit commonplace, but employs one of those uncommon slender CD cases. There are no liner notes, but the fans will already have the lyrics in the studio albums's sleeves.
Set List also shows Common Children as a band on the verge of a transition. From their inception they have drawn unwanted, but somewhat founded, comparisons to Nirvana and other grunge acts. (Sorry to mention the N word.) Delicate Fade, however, bore witness that they were no mere grunge wannabe retreaders, but a creative trio with their own distinctive chops and signature style. As a result, even on this live album, the songs that downplay the grunge factor in favor of more interesting sound structures are not only more captivating, they even sound better. A good example of this is the ambient "Dual Lens" with its "echoey Choiresque" guitar work. This is not to diminish the impressive power of their full-modern rock assaults which are delivered expertly with a great deal of gritty guts and gung-ho glory. Whether rocking or reflecting, Common Children play well and rather tightly together, and Marc Byrd has a wonderful voice for this sound which he uses to full emotive effect, screaming or otherwise.
Overall, Set List is an excellent way to hear what the band used to sound like live, including between song comments. Though the chit chat is sincere enough, it is a bit burdensome to hear again and again. The band, however, has improved with age and extensive touring. Consequently, this little collector's disc no longer represents their live act, yet remains an excellent keepsake for ardent fans--a worthy snapshot of a band getting better all the time. Newcomers to their intelligent post- grunge rock are better off beginning with their other albums, and then treating this live album as a desirable bonus. With a limited pressing, you may be lucky to find it.
By Steven Stuart Baldwin (09/30/98)