Starting Line were just kids when they made Say It Like You Mean It, their 2002 full-length debut. The Philly combo's energetic emo blushed with first-time love and heartbreak, and not coincidentally their songs resonated most with kids in the midst of similar drama summers. Everyone's a little older for Based on a True Story. Kenny Vasoli is still singing about girls in his life and the feelings in his heart, but in 2005 those topics mean marriage, long-distance relationships, and "What does it all mean?" examinations of purpose. But while it's all very touchy-feely and sincere, the band doesn't find many hooks on which to hang the pain. Say It Like You Mean It cranked up the guitars and kept energy in the tempos -- that approach made its maudlin lyrics easier to take. But True Story takes a cue from the softer touch of 2003's Make Yourself at Home EP, incorporating acoustic guitars, emphasizing Vasoli's edge-of-tears vocal, and favoring busy breaks that distract from actual rocking. Growing up is important, as people and as a band. But with Based on a True Story, Starting Line have only matured into a more grandiose version of A New Found Glory. At least that band has some fun once in a while. Starting Line's "Photography" is an emo-adult contemporary ballad with surging keys and strings and love-dizzy lyrics ("You're making a small change to the way that you wear your heart/I like it better!"). The safely midtempo "Bedroom Talk" relies on smarmily risqué lyrics like "I'm gonna tear your ass up like we just got married" to make an impression, and "Inspired by the $" buries its cynicism and promisingly ragged core in plodding rhythms and elliptical guitars that fade into a mushy mess. Throughout the album, the band dilutes its passion in layers of status-quo production and the kind of melodrama that's making emo a mid-decade cliché.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus