Casting a shadow over the latest disc from Pennsylvanian pop-punkers The Starting Line is their much-publicized departure from Geffen and defection to Virgin Records. After Geffen outright refused to promote 2005’s Based On A True Story, the group managed to opt out of their contract and found a new home that was willing to support their next release properly. The result is Direction, a relatively straightforward but catchy disc in which The Starting Line navigates familiar territory.
For the most part, Direction exhibits musical growth within The Starting Line. The songs, still around the three-to-four-minute mark, are pretty basic in formula, but the group is able to do a lot with very little material. There are plenty of layers and the production is slicker than ever, making the band sound more comfortable and mature. While the band sounds musically more mature on Direction, they are still extremely lyrically adolescent. Resident vocalist and bassist Kenny Vasoli has been penning lyrics for The Starting Line since he was 14 years old and does not sound much wiser nine years later. Lines like “If this is worth your while/ Then you’re making me smile” in “Somebody’s Gonna Miss Us” or “I was growing my hair/ And I could not care/ What they’d think” in the title track only lend to embarrassment and sadly diminish the quality of the music.
Direction is a promising step forward for The Starting Line, and maybe on their next record label Kenny Vasoli will finally have mastered his lyrical chops.