Philadelphia pop-punk group The Starting Line released new music late last month, its first studio release since 2007. Founded in 1999, it is the latest successful band from the last decade to re-emerge on the music scene, much like pop-punk peer Simple Plan did recently (on the same day, ironically enough). The new release is a three song extended play titled “Anyways.”
“Anyways,” in many respects, is a departure from not only its previous releases, but the entire pop-punk genre as well. Previously, the band’s biggest hit was the 2002 teenage heartthrob, angst-driven song titled “Best Of Me,” and it is a song that fit in with the emerging pop-punk scene of the time: blink-182, Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory and Sum 41, among others. The EP “Anyways” shows a band that has matured, both musically and lyrically, from pop-punk rockers into a band marketable in 2016.
The opening track of the EP establishes this new sound right away. The title track starts with a heavy, tube amplified guitar that comes in at a mild tempo by itself. It is then joined by an indie rock-inspired lead part after one measure. Perhaps the biggest indication that this is a fresh sound for the band is when the vocals come in. The style of lead singer Kenny Vasoli has evolved from the young love seeking pop-punk vocals of the previous releases to a matured, powerful and wise voice.
The lyrics also support the matured sound, when Vasoli sings the opening line, “Well I’ve been given a lot of time/ To get my life set straight on my head on right. I assumed that I could do no wrong/ Until I started to lose my charm.” Later, Vasoli sings “I know we’ve got a lot of pain/ ‘Cause it’s so hard to be human in so many ways. Overthinking most of my life/ I should be swallowing all of my pride.” These deep lyrics strike a chord with listeners that rings much deeper than the typical pop-punk song. It is notable for understanding how much the band and its music has evolved.
“Quitter” embraces intertextuality between the old and new sound of The Starting Line, with a high tempo and indie rock style guitar section that is paired with a standard pop-punk drum beat after two bars. This song is not as deep lyrically as “Anyways,” but the high energy nature of the song reminds fans they are still a rock band whose roots are in pop-punk. It is reminiscent in structure to a generic pop-punk song, but the intertextuality is a nice touch, and it fits well on the EP. It is a fun number to jam along to in the middle of the record.
The third and final track on the EP is titled “Luck,” and it is a thoroughly well-constructed tune, perfect for ending the record. Like the first two songs, it starts with a tube driven guitar that is quickly joined by a lead guitar that adds dynamism. The lead guitar part in this song is the best on the record, and it provides a hook that sticks in listeners’ minds right away. The tempo in “Luck” is much softer than that of “Quitter,” and the drums reflect that.
The song tackles the topic of working toward something, persevering and waiting for things to turn in your favor. This is clear in the chorus as Vasoli melodically pleads, “On hard times/ Waiting for all our luck to turn.” This song is another example of intertextuality, something Vasoli is in touch with. The punk-pop, alternative and indie rock roots are clear throughout the EP and are executed with fine precision.
In an interview with Fuse TV, Vasoli made it clear that although The Starting Line is making music again, it is not ready to go back on tour full-time or record a full-length album. Vasoli is the lead singer of another band called Vacationer, which is a band that produces mellow, laid-back reggae style pop music.
The other members of the band also have other things going on in their lives, and they are not looking to perform in The Starting Line full time. The band enjoys performing and making music in a limited capacity, and Vasoli stated, “[Playing with the band] is a whole lot of fun. It’s still fun because we do it so infrequently that when we do do it, it’s like a family reunion. It’s something really special.”
The EP “Anyways” is certainly worth a listen, and you can catch The Starting Line this summer at Festival Piers Landing in Philadelphia, on the bill with Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin and The Early November on June 19.