The Starting Line - Direction (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Starting Line

Direction (2007)


Like many bands that hit their pinnacle in the early 2000s pop-punk craze, the Starting Line has been searching the last few years for a more mature sound to somehow garner the success of today's more "emotionally equipped" acts. While 2005's Based on a True Story headed up such an effort, lines like "I'm gonna tear your ass up like we just got married and you're all mine now" made the process much more difficult than it should have been. So consider Direction a success that the Starting Line manage to sound more grown-up musically and less immature this time around.

Not a whole lot of the band's pop-punk past remains in the Starting Line of today. There are a couple fun, energetic tunes in "Way with Words," "I Could Be Wrong" and the Yellowcard ripoff "21," but for the most part Direction resonates as more of a pop-rock effort with an unfortunate lack of hooks. The frustratingly sluggish title track defines the album's identity crisis that meanders between half-assed aggression and melody that falls short of catchiness.

The simplicity and honesty of "I Could Be Wrong" shows that the Starting Line are still capable of making down-to-earth pop-punk, as lead singer Kenny Vasoli admits "From the east coast to west coast states / I want to feel the warmth from the buzz that I create / But I'm really not too sure if it's ever gonna happen / But I know that I'm not too concerned." However, on the next track the band turns to a self-righteous condescending tone as they address their old fans: "If SILYMI [Say it Like You Mean It] still is all you want / Then I'm not sure how much in common we've got / Somebody's gonna miss us / When nobody's here for this song."

There's also an abundance of filler on Direction that begins with the bland rock of "Are You Alone," and collecting the slow-starting acoustic "Something Left to Give" and "Need to Love" before finally reaching a fairly catchy conclusion with "What You Want" that has the appeal to reach mainstream audiences.

Conveniently enough, direction seems to be exactly what the Starting Line is lacking in their latest release. While there are a handful of enjoyable rock and pop-punk tracks on Direction, there are too many struggling grabs that come up empty for it to be considered the mature and developed achievement it was meant to be.