Farside - The Monroe Doctrine (Cover Artwork)


The Monroe Doctrine (1999)


There's a reason that in a 2006 issue of Alternative Press, the head of Revelation Records placed Farside's The Monroe Doctrine among the top five albums the label has ever released. What I can't understand is how this album seems to have slipped off the radar and into relative obscurity. While the rest of the band's output was good for what it was, The Monroe Doctrine is one of the best albums of the nineties, one that seems to nod to everything from melodic punk/hardcore to indie rock and even post-punk.

For starters, the vocals are fantastic. Guitarists Popeye and Kevin Murphy take turns at the lead, and it only serves to make things more interesting. I'm not sure the album would be as enjoyable if it were 17 tracks with one singer, but with two, I'm very glad they didn't truncate the album to give it a more traditional play length.

The lyrics are hard to beat, too. I was introduced to this album by the appearance of "I Hope You're Unhappy" on the soundtrack to "Godmoney" (a film by Darren Doane). The sheer earnestness in self-referencing lyrics like "and Farside's writing a new LP" only lends honesty to other lines like "I know your children will be beautiful, but I don't ever want to know that they exist at all…And I hope that you're unhappy to be alone." As well, I am flat out amazed by lines like, "Pebbles fall into my hands. I'm aware of what that means: that the walls are crumbling on my battered head. If ignorance is blissfulness, that must make me a genius. Yet, somehow, I just can't seem to agree. Someone told me I'm just paying dues, and then I said, ‘How much do I have to spend?'" Honestly, I'd like to write every lyric from this whole album here, but I'll just ask you to suffer me one more quote. This one is from "The Fashionable Rebellion," which is, at 2:23, one of the shorter songs on the album, and that's not a bad thing at all.

Scream the saddest song you know.
Cry as if the world is ending.
Try convincing me that's what you want.
Wear my scars out on my sleeve, because I'm at that age.
We're all from the suburbs, and that's okay.
I'm sure you had it bad. Everybody wants to say that.
But I'm just not that impressed with socially accepted anger.
So don't raise another flag simply for the sake of fashion, because right now, we're just wasting up the air.
The diversity of this album is incredible, too. The songs range from slow and sympathetic ("I Hope You're Unhappy," "The Slowdance") to fast and very angry ("Teach Me How to Die," "Bled"), yet the contrast only serves to add importance to each song. The aforementioned diversity, however, is also one of the few weak points of the album. There are a handful of songs --from joke song "The Lonesome Ballad of El Bobo the Cranky," "Liz Hurley," which sounds like a riff they couldn't develop into a song but wanted to use anyway, and "Save It for the Children," which sounds like a joke song with its death metal growl, but may, indeed, be serious -- that bring the album down, if only momentarily.

But the musicianship of this album makes up for any missteps anywhere else. The Monroe Doctrine is one of the best examples of what a band can do if they really try. Every instrument -- bass, guitar, drums and vocals -- does exactly what it needs to do every second of this disc. Even the folksy cover of Graham Parker's "Blue Highway" doesn't seem out of place (and it also manages to show off how amazing Popeye's voice is).

It may have taken Farside five years to put this album out, but they clearly spent every moment making it the best it could be. It took Dear You a few years to become revered as the perfect album it is. It's possible that this album, someday, will get its due as well. Go get this album now. You will not regret it.