VISITING ACT ‌ The Starting Line 

Taking Aim: Pennsylvania alt-rockers The Starting Line step up with a major label release

The Starting Line
w/ Permanent Me, Four Years Strong, Merriweather
Fri. Sept. 21
9 p.m.
$15 (18 and up)
1008 Ocean Blvd. Isle of Palms
(843) 886-8948

“Direction” from the album Direction
Audio File

It's funny how musical genres can change so quickly. The styles that were popular just a couple of years ago are no longer in demand and sounds that were once so trite and cliché are now somewhat acceptable. Take pop-punk for example. A few years ago, that label was such a dirty word, carrying with it a negative connotation that associated a band with being talentless, cookie cutter, and part of a passing trend. Today it seems as though "emo" has replaced "pop-punk" as the dirty word du jour, making it safe once again for so-called pop-punk bands to be cool again.

When The Starting Line formed in 1999, the Pennsylvania quartet specialized in straight-up bubblegum pop-punk. The guys — Ken Vasoli (vocals/bass), Mike Golla (guitar), Matt Watts (guitar) and Tom Gryskiewicz (drums) — solidified their place in that genre by inking a deal with then pop-punk powerhouse Drive-Thru Records and releasing Say It Like You Mean It (a solid melodic punk album) in 2002. Over the years as the guys themselves have grown up — Vasoli was just 14 years old when the band started — so has the music. A more mature sound was present on The Starting Line's next record Based on a True Story, and with their new album, Direction, the guys exhibit their ability to pen quality rock songs that still maintain a hint of their old pop-punk tendencies.

"I think we've always tried to evolve our sound, tried to make the best music that we could," says Vasoli of the change. "When we started out, we didn't limit ourselves to say that we were just going to be a pop-punk band. We try to explore all different territories with music. [With Direction], we tried to make a record that people that really aren't fans of this kind of music could still enjoy and that people that are fans of pop-punk could still enjoy just as much."

The Starting Line's decision to leave Geffen Records after the lackluster release of Based on a True Story and shack up with Virgin Records for Direction proved to be a wise decision. The band now has label support and attention, all of which made the recording process much simpler. And it shows in the final product. Direction is an outstanding piece of work. It's what Based on a True Story tried to be but didn't quite get there. With standout tracks like "Direction" and "Island" as well as more complicated songwriting and thoughtful lyrics, the album shows that Vasoli and company have finally achieved the musical level they've been striving for. And they have proven that pop-punk bands can indeed evolve.


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