Common Language was formed in 1989 by Charlene Easter (vocals, bass), Gretchen Wenner (guitar), and Mary Lake (guitar). In the same year, they debuted with the 3-track single Urge to Forget. The title song contains a German translation and a "reverse speech" version of Adrienne Rich's poem "Dream of a Common Language".
In 1990, the band released their first album Scar on Lisa Orth's Big Flaming Ego label (distributed by Sub Pop). The music was characterized by the UW Daily as “If Sonic Youth and Cocteau Twins borrowed Big Black's drum machine they might come out with a sloppier-sounding version of Common Language. A perfect highwire act between ethereal art & grating distortion.”
In 1991, they signed to Blast First London, a sublabel of Mute Records. Their second album Flesh Impact was published in 1993.