REVIEW: The Starting Line – ‘Anyways’ EP

the starting line anyways feature

Artist: The Starting Line
Album: Anyways EP
Label: Downtown Records
Genre: Pop-punk

One thing I’ve always admired about The Starting Line was their willingness to evolve as musicians and make new and exciting pop-punk music, despite the majority of their MTV-emo peers sinking and flailing between member changes, awkward “mature” releases, and stagnation in the genre. As a result, the band’s discography still holds up damn well; Direction is still as fresh as it was the day it released, Based On A True Story still bleeds urgency and honesty, and Say It Like You Mean It is still a bona fide classic. The Starting Line never settled into a comfortable rut and always experimented with their sound with each new record, making each era of the band distinct and worthy of revisiting.

There lies the issue with the band’s new Anyways 7-inch. While all three of these tracks are catchy, perfectly adequate pop-punk songs, there’s nothing new or exciting to be found here that can’t already be found on one of the band’s previous records, nor is there anything that tops what the best bands in the genre are currently producing.

The EP slowly begins by meandering through the opening track, “Anyways.” The title track features a standard little pop-punk riff, palm-muted verses, Kenny Vasoli’s trademark vocals, which have deepened substantially since we last heard them in a Starting Line song. The track rarely deviates from its safe sound, and moves at a glacial pace through a forgettable chorus that early 2000s TSL could have written circles around. Despite the slow start, “Quitter” fares far better, with a nice little falsetto section in the chorus, a drum part that doesn’t feel like it’s there purely out of obligation, and a 2:17 runtime that doesn’t wear out its welcome. It’s easily the highlight of the record, and with a better production job and some much-needed dynamics, it’d potentially rival some of the standout tracks from the band’s early career. “Luck” is a track we’ve had for a while, as the band has played it annually at their New Jersey holiday shows for a number of years now, but the recorded version offers little satisfaction over the live rips that have floated around the web for the past few years. The band builds up to a nice little groove, goes nowhere interesting, and the track ends on an oddly abrupt note that makes you wonder if the song could have used another couple of years in the oven.

Will Yip’s production work, as with most pop-punk releases that the Philly-based engineer has worked on, is underwhelming at best. Yip’s best known for his analog Neve setup that works wonders building gloomy, fuzzy, and sonically interesting tones for bands like Citizen, Circa Survive, and Turnover, but a complete lack of punch or gloss on these tracks completely corrodes any interesting textures that the band could have come up with and leaves the finished product sounding drab and boring. Much like with his work on Man Overboard’s Heart Attack, Major League’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Me, and Polar Bear Club’s Death Chorus, Yip’s production actively works against these songs, leading to a few frustrating moments that would have sounded so much better had Kenny and company chosen to record with a more reputable pop-punk producer (like Jesse Cannon or Sam Pura, for instance).

Ultimately, each of the tracks on Anyways are perfectly fine, and there lies the problem—there’s no “wow” moments, no exceptional tracks that warrant immediate replays, and no reason to revisit the release after the initial excitement wears out. Anyways handily takes the crown of The Starting Line’s most underwhelming release, which raises the question: in a year, when the weather warms up and I feel like listening to pop-punk again, will I reach for this 7-inch on the shelf, or will I reach for a Wonder Years record? Will I feel the pining to spin Anyways over whatever Knuckle Puck is up to or any given Fireworks record? Will there be a reason to choose these new tracks over a classic Starting Line LP like Direction? Hell, why not listen to Vacationer or Person L?

While there’s not much wrong with Anyways, there’s not much exciting about it either, and given the music industry’s tendency to forget about yesterday’s news in favor of this week’s shiny new release, it’s hard to imagine coming back to this EP. That being said, there’s a few good minutes of perfectly acceptable pop-punk on here, and fans of the band would be remiss to skip this release.

SCORE: 6/10

John Bazley

John Bazley was raised in central New Jersey by the romantic aura of the Asbury Park beachfront, punk rock, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. He is still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

In addition to UTG, John has contributed to Alternative Press and Full Frequency Media. Follow him on Twitter for pictures of his dog.
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  • Nick Juarez

    Could not disagree more. I’ve been a TSL fan for years, so anything they release I’m automatically going to find exciting. I don’t think the chorus to the title track is boring whatsoever, it’s what brings the whole song together. It delivers that classic Starting Line sound that’s still different enough to prefer. In terms of the genre, I would definitely pick this record over any of the other aforementioned bands. Granted, I’m not much of a “pop punk” fan anymore. But TSL isn’t playing defend pop punk. That’s why they’re not coming out with something that’s trying to be different and spectacular like you see with bands like Titlefight and Turnover who totally altered their sounds. (However I do like the new direction)
    Anyway, TSL was just releasing some new music for the fans, that’s all. They’re not back together. They just felt the urge to make some punk rock music again. So why would they try to reinvent the genre once again like have before? Also Vacationer and Person L kickass and that is an understatement I cannot stress enough.