Killer Klassix: The Starting Line; “Make Yourself At Home”

The Starting Line uses a minimalistic approach to not only further establish their sound, but have fun with their fans in the process.


Antonio Llanos, Staff Writer

There is knowledge in failure, but there is a story in doing it. Failure is imminent, but if you do it right, you could have so much fun doing it and maybe, just maybe, you could have been one of the lucky ones. Conversely, you are not considered lucky because you didn’t fail, but because now you have a story and in telling that story over the years after, it spurs a dangerous seed, that if you could go and do what you loved, the thing that made you grow and be who you really are, could you hope to do it again? In 2003, four kids from Philly were not only living their dreams but making new ones in the process.  

The Starting Line released the “Make Yourself At Home” EP on Nov. 25, 2003. Published by prominent pop punk record label, Drive-Thru records, the EP built off of The Starting Line’s success coming off of their tour for their successful debut record “Say It Like You Mean It.” The EP also demonstrated the capability of the band’s softer side and the genre’s ability to make more emotive music by writing strictly acoustic songs. Recorded in two sessions in producer Bob Jones’ bedroom and on a tour bus, The Starting Line uses a minimalistic approach to not only further establish their sound but have fun with their fans in the process.

“Make Yourself at Home” is the titular track for the EP and sets the tone as a whole. Lyricist and vocalist, Kenny Vasoli narrates a letter to his loved ones updating them not only on the experience of tour life, but his reflection on time lost with them. The song begins with Vasoli singing: “”Make it a note to take your pills,” she said/”I’ll leave them on the table in the same brown bottle you know.”/She said, “It’s good to have you home.”/The second I smelt the scent of my own house I said it/”Send just one postcard home/And call as often as you can to tell us how it goes./Let us know.” The track incorporates common pop beats that allow the song to flourish essentially using the “pop” in pop-punk as more than just a gimmick, but to actually take a simplistic melody and experiment with it within the same run-time. 

“Selective” is an acoustic pop punk track. It’s a favorite of mine on the album. Lyrically, it’s about wanting better for someone while still chasing the things you want in your life. Musically, the track progesses under a combination of production aid and solid acoustic writing on guitar. Approaching the song from a seemingly stagnant vantage point solidifies the theme of the song in Vasoli’s vocally layered climax:  “Make it a point to appreciate the life you lead/Don’t rush the days you’ll/Wish they stayed for one year later/It’s a tragic case of bad taste (Make it a point)/But it’s all concerning you (to appreciate the life you lead)/Who truly can appreciate the (Don’t rush the days you’ll/Wish they stayed for one year later)/Mess you’ve made (Make it a point to appreciate the life you lead).”

“Playing Favorites” was the breakout song of the EP. Written under the guise of a love song, Vasoli’s dedication to his craft shines through, highlighting California as the dream music destination. While the track features a versatility of acoustic composition, it is also Vasoli’s best vocal performance. Vasoli reassures over the microphone like one would over a telephone call: “Wait for me to move out west/It’s ok if you don’t/I hope you know/You’re my favorite thing/About the west coast/I wish i stayed/I hope you wait/So here i am/Counting down the days/’til california comes.”

“The Night Life” once again highlights acoustic/poppy production and enables the band to experiment with the acoustics of their production. Where “Make Yourself At Home” was very straight forward, “The Night Life” took it one step further with catchier lead guitars and cycling melodies in a manner that went with the produced beat of the song.

“The Best of Me” acts as an acoustic version of the band’s breakout hit and is just as catchy and fun as the original. Stripping the original track of its electric production allows the listener to truly get an essence for the band and see a more emotionally driven and softer side of the band’s capabilities of songwriting. Nothing is really changed except there are no drums or fast-paced guitars, but nothing is lost in translation, subtly noting the bands ability to craft well-written songs.

“Lasting Impressions” suffers from being the last track on the EP. Vasoli wanted one more track to round out the EP and recorded it in the back of the bus while on tour. The effort is noted, but the quality of the song falters in comparison to the rest of the songs. Even in “The Best  Of Me,” the song’s original quality carried it through and allowed it to have its own identity amongst the other original tracks.

By the end of the EP, The Starting line reminds the listener that maybe sometimes you have to scrap your failure, and throw it away. Maybe failure isn’t so much of a waste of time, but a time well spent, and a possible hope to chase that dream again, and maybe the dream this time is simply to be as happy as you once were on the initial chase.