“The Starting Line are four pretty attractive guys who probably get lots of girls and harmonize just like boy bands that sell oh so many albums. From start to finish, the album is full of bubbly, positive lyrics about (what else?) girls and poppy music, with plenty of upbeats and catchy hooks.”
“Mark Trombino, who has worked with such amazing acts as Mineral and Jimmy Eat World but also with blink-182, did the production work on Say It Like You Mean It, and while he has no doubt worked his magic once again, it appears he's moving in a completely different direction than where his roots lie. Considering that The Starting Line's unsophisticated EP sold 25,000 copies, this album will no doubt sell double that and confuse music critics in publications all across the world as to how yet again pop acts can become so popular while the more creative, intelligent artists are continually ignored.”
Kurt Morris, AllMusic.com
Kenny Vasoli, lead singer of the Starting Line, read those words as he walked on stage to start the final show of the “Say It Like You Mean It” tenth anniversary tour. As scathing as that review is, not just of the band but of the entire genre(“but also blink 182?”), it is in some ways prophetic. During the final days of 2012, thousands of passionate fans across the country gathered to hear Kenny, Matt, Tom, and Mike play the album in it’s entirety a decade after its release.
In my limited experience, I have begun to realize that “creative, intelligent” concepts, in isolation, have a very limited value. Instead, the most successful creative minds are those that are able to implement their concepts in a way that connects with the consumer.
Creating these connections are what bands like The Starting Line do well. The band’s sound and message resonates with their listeners. This is not something that should be derided, especially if the band is able to do so without sacrificing their ideals.
We should be proud of a band like the Starting Line who was able to achieve a high level of success at a very early age. They, to my knowledge, were not the brainchild of a group of industry executives who set out to create the next big thing. They were a group friends having fun.
What is wonderful about a band like the Starting Line is that the are doing what they love and they have found a group of enthusiastic people with whom to share it. We should all aspire to do the same in some aspect of our lives.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, The Starting Line is a four piece pop punk band hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The band, who initially played under the name Sunday Drive, stormed onto the indie scene with the release of the 2001 EP With Hopes of Starting Over.
With Hopes of Starting Over started the Starting Line’s relationship with the now defunct Drive-Thru Records. The band and their label benefitted with emergence of the internet as a tool for music discovery. As a high school sophomore, I remember scouring MP3.com, downloading each song one by one.
While majors labels moved sluggishly to adapt to a technology they didn’t fully understand, independent labels like Drive-Thru pounced. Indie labels released singles, EPs, and even full length albums for free. They took an innovative approach, sacrificing small immediate profits for the possibility of long term gains. Consumers continue to reap the benefits.
While With Hopes of Starting Over may have gotten the band it’s first national attention, The Starting Line’s first full length Say It Like You Mean It made them a national sensation in the indie scene. If you like pop punk (or even pop rock), this album had something that would grab you. Energetic, aggressive hooks, check. Angsty lyrics, check. Emotional love songs, check. Sing-alongs, check. I could go on, but you get the picture.
From the first note to the last chord, Say It Like You Mean It is filled with hit after hit. This is the type of album that makes you feel guilty about skipping a song. At the same time, it definitely has it’s stand out tracks. The most obvious selection is “The Best of Me” an upbeat sing-along in which Vasoli celebrates the optimism of young love.
The Starting Line followed up Say It Like You Mean It, with a series of solid releases culminating in their last full length, Direction, in 2007. The releases followed a natural progression, responding the the bands musical and personal maturation. While The Starting Line achieved its greatest commercial success with the 2005 release of Based on a True Story, Say It Like You Mean It created the strongest, most lasting impressions with it’s fan base.
As a result, 3,000 screaming fans packed a the sold out Electric Factory to hear Say It Like You Mean It played in its entirety. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, The Starting Line took us on an emotional roller coaster allowing fans to relive the last decade of their lives through song. The band, known for its upbeat, energetic performances, exceeded all expectations. Despite playing in a large venue, each member of The Starting Line effectively created an emotional connection with every member of the audience.
The crowd responded in kind, screaming every word back to the band. When the tempo picked up, the crowd got moving, even started a few modest mosh pits. As should be predicted, “The Best of Me” caused the most commotion despite being played fairly early in the set (The songs were played in the order they appear on the album.).
For those of you who haven’t been there, the Electric Factory is basically a cross between an empty factory and a high school gym. An expansive balcony borders the venue floor on two sides (Back and Right). As this was an all ages show, those who chose to partake in adult beverages were relegated to the balcony. I can only imagine this is the result of some terrible state law. Otherwise, the venue is infuriatingly lazy.
After playing Say It Like You Mean It in it’s entirety, the band took a short break and returned with a lengthy encore. The Starting Line played songs from each and every release. If you have read any of my previous reviews, you know this is something I value highly.
As with everyone in attendance, there are a few songs I wish the band had played, but didn’t. In certain ways, playing a concert puts a band in an almost impossible situation with regards to song selection. In the end, TSL did a fucking fantastic job. If you get a chance, check this band out, you will not be disappointed. As Vasoli left the stage, he promised that we have something to look forward to from the band in the next calendar year.
Last Sunday night, a few thousand people gathered at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to celebrate the success of the Starting Line. Together, we relived some of our greatest memories and made some new ones. Wish you were there.