The Starting Line have been through career woes in the two years since their second album, Based on a True Story, entered the Billboard chart in the Top 20 in 2005. Those woes can be suggested by noting that the album was off the chart after only six weeks, having been "de-prioritized" by Geffen Records-distributed Drive-Thru Records, and not long after that the Starting Line were without a label. The band bounces back with Direction on Virgin Records, and fans may not notice the difference. The sound, leaning now toward heavy metal (especially early on), then toward pop (especially toward the end), is still in an energetic pop-punk vein, even if it's a bit more sophisticated in certain ways, particularly in rhythmic terms. Producer Howard Benson has brought in percussionist Luis Conti on many tracks and, in a key change, even replaced drummer Tom Gryskeiwitz on three songs with session ace Kenny Aronoff, who powers the first single "Island" and what ought to be the second single, "21," as well as "What You Want." The band has also added a keyboard player, Brian Schmutz, to the lineup. The move to a more evolved sound is not surprising for a group that seems to use pop-punk as something of a flag of convenience, anyway. Singer Kenny Vasoli, while expressing the angst and uncertainties of youth, has a sweet, conventionally optimistic viewpoint in many of his lyrics. When it comes down to it, he's just not a punk; he wants love and looks forward to having grandchildren. He may sing, "It's 7:00 and I'm already wasted" in "21," but, whether he's just tired or suffering the effects of "the medicine that keeps me well," whatever that may be, he wants to straighten himself out. He's not angry, he's just confused, and you get the feeling he'll pull himself together and have a happy life. Direction is about musicians who may have veered off course temporarily (or been driven to the side of the road), but who are righting themselves and determined to push on.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann