Consistently accomplished bands like Children 18:3 are sadly quite rare. With every member's talents noticeable on every track and every intricacy accounted for, the band of siblings create an unbelievable story together, and most groups just don't click together this well on a regular basis. But David, Lee Marie, and Seth Hostetter all found a way to harness their collective creative energy and release album after album of excellence. But all good things come to an end, and in January 2014, the band announced a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the band's fourth and final album. Sixteen months later, listeners finally have Come In, and it brings about a certain retrospective as the band's final statement.
Final albums, of course, beg certain questions about the band's past and present: how did they evolve over time, and what kind of career did they achieve? The inescapable aspect of Children 18:3 is that they really did pick a certain rock sound and stick to it for the whole nine yards, though many bands on Tooth & Nail Records do and have done the same. But unlike so many of those bands, C18:3 always changed just enough in their methods to make every album its own unique event. The punk rock nucleus has always been here, but no two albums have been alike. But at the end of four albums, comparing the newer material of Come In to the band's classic self-titled effort reveals fewer deviations than one might expect. While Lee Marie has steadily taken more and more lead vocal duties and the group has moved from shorter punk bursts to longer, more standard rock tracks, things have mostly stayed the same over the last decade, and if nothing else, Come In reminds us even more of that reality.
Much like Anberlin did for their final album, Lowborn, Children 18:3 pieced together Come In on their own but partnered with Tooth & Nail for distribution purposes. But while Lowborn was a purposeful mix of both the warm familiar and experimental left field, Come In falls more on the least risky side of the equation; tracks such as "Hold Your Breath," "For This We Ride," and "Watch Over Me" feel like short punk blasts that don't make too many impressions, and are at worst unmemorable and at best accessible. But just like the rest of the band's work, repeated listens to the full album tend to reveal the special moments. C18:3's lyrical style has always been on the interpretive side anyway, with later listens tending to reveal depth over time.
Most of the highlights of Come In are more of the same greatness as before. Seth's drumming is unspeakably polished, while David and Lee Marie share the rest of the duties expertly. The intro title track is a warm invitation to everyone ("Are you empty? Are You broken? Are you lost and all alone? / Unaccepted? Suicidal? Are you looking for a home?"). These descriptions fit us all, and they usher in the realistic human futility of "Bethlehem" and "After All." These two, along with the sweetly redemptive "Don't Stop Moving," are probably the most complete tracks here. But it's the slower and reflective "Long Ride Home" that really hits home and helps make the album distinctive in the band's catalog. It recounts the band's experiences as a relentlessly touring group starting with humble beginnings ("the other night on a couch you dropped a beat / took a chance on never-ending curtain calls and touring / that night when I borrowed a guitar / became 13 years of open surgery").
In the popular consciousness of Tooth & Nail devotees, Children 18:3 wasn't necessarily the most well known of their label family, but they were among the most talented and original. While it's hard to envision Come In years down the line as the most memorable album of the band's decorated career, the album does little to tarnish their reputation as quality musicians and songwriters who simply do what they do best. But perhaps the best news is that after the final drum rolls and vocal echoes of "Long Ride Home" come and go, the Hostetters will rise again in more musical projects on the horizon. But for now, Come In is a more than fitting finale for this exceptional trio.- Review date: 4/19/15, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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