Taking Back Sunday and the Starting Line, with the Reunion Show and Northstar

Hailing from Amityville, New York -- a town known for scenes of slaughter and houses with walls that bleed -- Taking Back Sunday may lack the special effects to terrify. But its brash live shows have been drawing plenty of screams from emo-punk kids.

Lead singer Adam Lazarra's reputation for frantically flailing about on stage turned the band's first release, Tell All Your Friends, into Victory Records' fastest-selling album ever. A tour earlier this fall with Midtown furthered their fame. The band injects a sense of urgency into its music with catchy riffs and explosive vocals. On the single "Cut from the Team," a fight song for dumped dudes, TBS tackles breaking up with verve. While the band draws most of its songs from the same well of emotions as Alkaline Trio, Saves the Day and especially labelmates Thursday, their lyrics stand apart. Lines like "If you could slit my throat, with my one last gasping breath I'd apologize for bleeding on your shirt" tend to stick with a person -- or maybe on a person…

Lazarra is equally comfortable belting angry rants and whispering sweet nothings into the mike, as he does when he begs for a girl to remember him on "Your Own Disaster." It packs the same punch as anything from Dashboard Confessional.

The Starting Line has become one of Drive-Thru Records' stars by mixing teenybopper themes with the standard pop-punk sound and adding just a touch of emotional maturity. While the Pennsylvania preppies' debut CD, Say It Like You Mean It, has several songs with intros and hooks that will have kids asking "Is this the new Blink?" their wise-beyond-their-years insight sets them apart.

And the band knows this. Their Web site sells them as musicians with an original sound (don't they all?) but tellingly adds, "At a time when chart tops are [overrun] with grown men trying to pose as kids by wearing shorts and baseball caps, the Starting Line's members are roughly the same age as their audience." It's an obvious shot at Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus.

Teamed up with the Reunion Show and Northstar, the Starting Line and the band from Amityville shouldn't have much trouble taking back Wednesday and drawing a sizable audience of kids out on a school night.

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Ray Hafner