Back in April of 2012, I wrote an article under the “Please Press” umbrella, looking at “Based On A True Story” and its place within The Starting Line’s discography. I’ve placed this article below, as a substitute for a typical music review. After all, it was pressed, so it’s certainly an appropriate recall.
When discussing the recent rash of vinyl pressings to concern The Starting Line, a Twitter user asked me the following, “Is it blasphemous if ‘Say It Like You Mean It’ is not my favorite Starting Line album?” And that question got me thinking, because to many fans, that really would be a blasphemous notion. The debut full length effort from the Philadelphia-based band is the fan favorite, complete with the song that’s come to define the group, “The Best Of Me.” But is it really the greatest album the band has produced?
After re-visiting their catalog, it’s a simple answer: no.
That honor falls to their second full length album, which until Shop Radio Cast’s recent release, was the only one that had yet be represented on the vinyl format: “Based On A True Story.” The 2005 record, released by Drive Thru and Geffen, wasn’t another album of simple, yet pure pop music. It was something slightly more sophisticated and something which would successfully take both Kenny Vasoli’s storytelling, along with The Starting Line’s general polish as a band, to an entirely new level.
After a short intro, titled “Action,” the album kicks of with “Making Love To The Camera,” a track announcing the intense, authoritative intentions of the album. Following about 30 seconds of acoustic guitar, the song explodes, unleashing a type of sound that was almost entirely absent from their debut: pure rock. Vasoli sings, “Will there be a picture left to snap/Or will my face just detach itself/And get caught up in the public eye?” The theme of fame and what an individual can do to deal with it is a topic that suits the brutally honest frontman, as he continues to attack it in the second verse, adding, “And if we blossom as high as northwestern trees/I swear I’ll still be the same as I was as a seed.”
In “Inspired By The $ Sign,” the band takes the theme of fame and applies it to the recording process in a well known “middle-finger” to their record label. The track has Vasoli screaming, “Get to the point/Get it across/To the boys at the top of the ladder I’m climbing up,” before hitting the second verse with some more blows to the label heads, singing, “This is a call from my cage through the bars.” Only a talented group could insult their bosses while writing a great song in the process. Of course they did end up writing a hit, even if the general public didn’t quite embrace it. “Bedroom Talk” is the song that should of taken the group to the next level, but for whatever reason (maybe subject matter), it would fail to. A chorus that leads off with “I’m gonna tear your ass up like we just got married” successfully combined the edgy lyrical direction Vasoli wished to travel in, while keeping the pop-based sound that made “The Best Of Me” such a smash. The lyrics could be looked at as cheesy, but the hook is one that saves it any amount of immaturity.
Where this album truly separates itself, though, is in the back half of the record, beginning with “Photography.” The six-minute track takes a simple idea and expands it to a rousing epic, complete with yet another big chorus. “I’ll swing from a streetlight/As I will sing oh, oh, oh/I’m stuck in the meantime/But we’re so oh, oh, oh close,” does sound like pop-punk, but crafted by experts of the genre. And by the time their guitarists, Matt Watts and Mike Golla take over in the latter half of the track, this ballad becomes a must-hear. In “The B-List,” the band hits on the subject shown in the cover, film. My personal favorite begins with “Take another hundred names and put ’em on a list/And curse yourself for ever watching it/ I’m looking to have to see it to the end/Cause the fastest rat is always gonna win.” The lyrics tell the story of a young actress, attempting to balance the pursuit of fame with the artistic nature of her business. Sound familiar? They then keep the momentum going with “The World,” yet another song that should have been a summer hit, before hitting listeners with the classic ballad, “Ready.” Vasoli sings, “Let it be heard by those taking an interest/Not for the critics holding their ears.” Again, the idea of fame is touched upon, this time in a direct message to fans. He continues with, “I’ve been waiting for answers/Dancing in circles, making me sick/I’ve been chained like a tiger/To hundreds of liars, all holding hands.”
What the band projects throughout the record could be seen as anger to some, but to me, it’s more like clarity. And as you look at Vasoli’s career arc since then, it’s quite clear that he’s never been interested in the fame section of the musical business. I mean, he didn’t even list himself in the album notes as a member of his latest project, Vacationer. When looking throughout the spectrum of pop-punk, new and old, this amount of honesty has always been more than welcome.
Sound Quality: In the presentation of a full and dynamic sound, SRC has given an excellent album the proper treatment. The percussion may get lost at times within the mix (most likely a result of the initial production, not any vinyl mastering or pressing), but overall, the records have a nice power to them. A few of those “pops and cracks” showed up every now and then, but primarily in the gap between tracks. The crystal clear, perfectly captured vocals of Vasoli in tracks like “Bedroom Talk,” “Photography” and “Ready” serve as an obvious highlight, but the band’s musicianship is certainly given the proper respect, as well. The pressing may not have blown me away completely (a few tracks, like “Surprise, Surprise,” fall a bit flat sonically) but it’s certainly an above average treatment.
Packaging: The 2xLP set is housed in a sturdy gatefold jacket, adorned with the album’s original artwork on the outer portions, along with additional photographs on the inner panels, all establishing the record’s Hollywood theme. The real artistic highlight comes with what the jacket is housing, though, as the D-side etching is similar in appearance to a film canister, a feature further emphasized by the clear-based variants. In a nice finishing touch, the two different center labels again assisting in the product’s canister-like appearance. To top it off, a full-size lyric booklet is included in the packaging, featuring the words to each song, along with credits on the last page. It may not be anything special artistically, but it keeps with that theme. And that thematic dedication is what you have to truly admire within SRC’s end product.
Extras: No digital download is included in the package. SRC does score a few points for the multiple variants, though, producing a clear variant (limited to 1,250); a clear with black smoke (limited to 500); and a clear with white smoke (limited to 500). You’d still like to see that digital download, even if most customers will already own the album.
Summary: Longtime fans of The Starting Line should be pleased with Shop Radio Cast’s pressing of Based On A True Story, as both the thematically consistent appearance and above average audible output were obviously the result of much care from the label. I’ll still contend that at over $25, the price on this reissue (along with SRC’s other 2xLP releases) is a little too high, but at least you’re paying for a quality product. And most of all, the album they’ve worked from is a quality product, serving as the best of the pop-punk group’s career.
Make Sure To Spin: “Photography,” “Ready” and “Stay Where I Can See You”