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FARSIDE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Rochambeau (Revelation) 1992
Rigged (Revelation) 1994
Farside EP (Revelation) 1995
The Monroe Doctrine (Revelation) 1999

This Orange County, California, hardcore quartet prides itself on solid, anthemic songwriting and good instincts. While he didn't stick around to record with the group, future Rage Against the Machine singer Zack de la Rocha was one of its original guitarists.

Singer/guitarist Popeye (Michael Vogelsang, also heard in such bands as Triggerman, Borderline and Game Face) wears his teenage-turning-adult heart on his sleeve on Rochambeau — for better ("Future Days," "Hero," "Smarter Than Ever") and worse ("Constant Reminder," the overwrought title track). Try this sample (if out-of-context) lyric: "It's boiling over I've dried my/eyes, now let's start moving." Acoustic guitar underpinnings give the record additional instrumental and emotional depth, as Rochambeau introduces an earnest, focused group with a good grasp on dynamics and a crisp delivery on themes like self-awareness, unity and the personal as political.

More first-person lyrics, less acoustic leavening (signaled by the Marshall stacks on the CD sleeve) and a new guitarist (Kevin Murphy, replacing Rob Haworth) mark Rigged, a ten-song outing that bolsters Farside's sound and approach. Twin guitars gnarl forcefully, and the quartet's songwriting is decidedly improved, with stronger melodies and riffs reminiscent of Hüsker Dü. The emo quotient is still high — Popeye and the band place a premium on friendship, loyalty, and idealism — but cynicism occasionally creeps in. Ultimately, Farside values the vivid sting of emotional pain much more than the pallor of despair, and that charges the group's batteries plenty.

The self-titled six-song EP includes a mediocre cover of the Hüskers "Hardly Getting Over It," but Murphy gets in the songwriting act with the solid "Lollapalooza."

[Mark Woodlief]