Vol. 9: “Last Display” Common Children

“We thought the sun would surface, and we prayed for this to change…”

The now defunct Common Children was somewhat of an anomaly in the music world. While technically labeled as “Christian Rock”, you would have a hard time finding the usual trappings of the genre. Through their three albums, CC avoided the trend of just cloning a popular sound and adding Christian lyrics. This final album especially, sounds more like an early ’70s Prog Rock record than anything produced by its secular contemporaries.

The In Between Time is the band’s final release. Fashioned as somewhat of a concept album, it keeps a loose thread throughout of humans in a pinch, wondering where God went. This is hardly the subject matter examined in the more mainstream CCM acts, and the unifying theme gives this collection of 12 tracks a meditative quality that can serve as a backdrop for those in between times when the soul questions (but doesn’t abandon) its maker.

“Last Display” is track three. It opens with a prominent bass line that ushers in the processed guitar of the musical intro. Once bass, guitar, and drums have established the basic groove, Steve Hindalong’s vocals settle on top, opening with “You threw it all away, when you made your last display”. It’s a dark, brooding, tone for this genre for sure, and not artificially so. Common Children have no illusions in this song. Sometimes life sucks and bad stuff can go down regardless of your disposition towards God. The difference between this In Between Time, and nihilistic visions of gloom is exactly what the title suggests. We live in between two eras of glory. The macrocosm is history’s time-line, from the Biblical passage taken form I John: “What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him….” The microcosm is living this out day to day. The In Between Time can mean uncertainty, grief, or doubt, but it’s ultimately just a temporary pause to bring about the next hour of joy.

Hooks Heard
What grabs you right away in this song is that opening guitar hook with the bass line underpinning it. Both of these licks set up shop and hang around for the rest of the song, providing the foundation for all that gets layered on top, and does it ever layer. Once the first chorus hits, we get a wash of distorted electric guitar chording, up until the Etch a Sketch gets shaken to reveal a clean slate for another guitar lick leading into the next verse. This repeats through verse 2 but changes after the chorus repeats. Here, chorus two leads into the final tag, “Don’t throw it all away”, where the song hits its crescendo. Then it settles down into a graceful end with subdued bass, drum and more lead licks.

Meaning Meter:
We already delved into some deepness earlier, but it’s worth noting again how the structure of the song sets up stages of faith tested. “We thought the sun would surface, and we prayed for this to change…” Verses 1 and two with the repeated chorus give voice to the despairing believer looking to “find my way to where starlight falls on me.” Starlight seems to be the metaphor for the good times “when hope filled up our sky”. The song climaxes with Hindalong pleading “Don’t throw this all away now.”, perhaps with someone contemplating apostasy or even suicide. The final lyrics state some final observations about his relationship with God. “I can’t keep you, I don’t need to. I can’t find you, I don’t have to, I don’t see you, I can feel you.”

Therein lies the challenge of life, as the band puts it. To be able to trust without knowing all the answers.