No Direction

Staring at the Ground

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When Philadelphia rock critic Joey Sweeney critiqued the Philadelphia Music Conference (sort of a Philly version of South By Southwest or the New Music Seminar -- or at least it aspired to be) in 2001, he had the following recommendation: no more emo. And he was quite vehement in his assertion. Sweeney, like a lot of critics, had obviously become very burned out on emo -- which is certainly understandable when you consider how crowded the field had become and how much saturation was taking place. It seemed like every week, a glut of faceless blink-182 clones were landing record deals they didn't deserve. Is it any wonder that Sweeney and other critics were experiencing emo burnout? How one responds to No Direction's Staring at the Ground will have a lot to do with how much emo burnout he/she is experiencing. This disc has the usual emo ingredients: a bratty vocal style (courtesy of Ian Rodriguez), a punk-pop sense of melody, and lyrics that are confessional and/or introspective. No Direction doesn't use punk-pop to fight the power or address sociopolitical concerns; the bandmembers use it to deal with their emotions. And even though you've heard this type of thing before -- especially if you spent a lot of time listening to alterna-rock radio extensively in the late '90s or early 2000s -- Staring at the Ground does have its moments. The CD offers some pedestrian tracks -- not bad, just pedestrian -- but it also has some memorable and likable ones, including "Dream Girl" and the melancholy "Without You." Although Staring at the Ground is uneven and less than distinctive, there are enough noteworthy tracks to make the listener want to keep an eye on No Direction, monitor the band's progress, and see how it develops.

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