Since making their recording debut over a dozen years ago, the innocence mission has been turning out shamelessly naive folk-pop music, brimming with hope, compassion and joy. Isn't it about time they knocked it off?

That question may pop up while listening to the trio's latest (and fourth album), "birds of my neighborhood," especially when lead singer and songwriter Karen Peris really begins to wax poetic. To wit: "Oh mourning dove, we'll go up to my roof/Oh mourning dove, we'll go into the sky. This day is filling up my room." By the time Peris utters that refrain in her frail soprano, she and her bandmates--husband/guitarist/pianist Don Peris and bassist Mike Bitts--already have us drowning in sunshine, thanks to several original tunes and a cover of the John Denver ballad "Follow Me."

Not that some of the songs aren't bittersweet. The Perises clearly view their music as a way of coping with or overcoming hard times.

Unfortunately, about half of the songs on the album sound more trite or precious than comforting. What remains--the simple finger-picked guitar ballad "Where Does the Time Go" and the Neil Young-like reflection "I Was in the Air," among other tunes--reveals the band's strong ties to '60s folk rock, its flair for creating sparse atmospheric settings, and little else.

Appearing Monday at the Birchmere with Dennis Whitmore.

To hear a free Sound Bite from the innocence mission, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8125. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)