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Album Review
The Fray - The Fray Album Cover

The Fray - The Fray

Reviewed by
8.3
The Fray - The Fray
Record Label: Epic
Release Date: February 3, 2009
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Some people say that The Fray lead singer Isaac Slade has a nasally whine that sounds like he has yet to get over a 10-year head cold. Other people say every song the band puts out sounds analogous. So it's no surprise that to date critics have bashed their self-titled follow up left and right. Despite the fact that it made a splash on the Billboard charts upon its release and that single "You Found Me" is doing relatively well at radio, people still want to hate this band. This dispassion is all quite confusing.

For what it's worth, the Denver quartet has released a charming, appealing record that would be far more praiseworthy if it didn't sound so much like its predecessor. But for the sake of argument, how exactly is that a bad thing? Coldplay made a bunch of safe records until Viva La Vida broke the mold. So why is The Fray getting so trounced? Is the band too polite? For starters, most of the members are all married, some have children, and at one point in their careers they have all identified themselves as Christian. To this degree, they have never trashed hotel rooms, kicked camera people or served jail time. In fact, they've done little to polarize any one person or any one outlet. This band is to put it mildly, safe, comfortable, warming, and gracious.

And now for the music. For one, the self-titled album isn't nearly as awful as people make it out to be. Opener "Syndicate" opens with a winning piano line and pushes out into a grander, denser sound than found before on the major label debut. Second track "Absolute" is an arena-rock send-up that borrows its swagger and energy from the likes of U2 and Snow Patrol. The ubiquitous single "You Found Me" follows and is backed by "Say When," a pleasing, mid-tempo offering that is one of the band's highlights. The best part of the song is that Slade pushes his vocals to a near-desperate yelp an the music sounds far bolder and kinetic than anything they've ever done before. A syrupy ballad "Never Say Never" follows and it's nothing short of astonishing. There's falsetto towards the end and its romantic, wistful and full of understated grace. Backed by strings and a swelling rhythm section, it's a polished and positive step forward.

"Where the Story Ends" follows and it's the album's first and only letdown. It's not so much a bad song as it just doesn't seem to go anywhere. Slade's vocals are effective here and the lyrics, which chronicle an unhappy person hating his life, are evocative and poignant. "Enough For Now" sounds a bit like "Say When" redux but the passion and energy are a bit more realized here. For all his crooning and light-hearted moments, it's refreshing to hear Slade sound so pissed off and angry.

The sparse piano ballad "Ungodly Hour" follows and it's Joe King's turn on lead vocals. Some might argue he has a more effective vocal style than Slade and should be utilized more often and there is merit to this argument. The song is panged by sadness and desperation as he laments a failed relationship, "Because of me her bag is much heavier, I wish to God that I could carry her, but this is our ungodly hour." The saturnine wail is reminiscent of Ryan Adams and it's a marked departure from anything in the band's prior catalog.

It's songs like "Ungodly Hour" that reveal a promise and a definition for future albums that other critics seem to be missing. "We Build Then We Break" is a fiery, percussive-heavy rocker that drifts off into an experimental and indie side that the band hasn't really explored thus far in their career. It has the same arena-rock intensity of "Absolute" and it's a shame it's such a brief song and that it comes towards the end. On these two electric offerings its evident the band has songs like this in their repertoire and its unfortunate they don't push those limits more often.

The album ends with "Happiness," a somber acoustic-fueled lament on happiness, death, love and stability. It's a chilly and brave way to end an album and quite fitting. Clearly there are issues unresolved within Slade's psyche, and the heavy dose of unhappiness and disappointment are indicative of that. Yet for all it's down moments, there's also a large chunk of triumphant choruses, resounding drums and chiming guitar lines. Yes, it may be an album a lot like its predecessor, but that isn't exactly a bad thing. If Jack's Mannequin can get away with it, why can't The Fray?

Recommended If You LikeHow to Save a Life; Coldplay; Keane; Jack's Mannequin; piano ballads; pondering life's disappointments; long-distance relationships

myspace.com/thefray
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 46
01:08 PM on 02/26/09
#2
Adrian Villagomez
The Sword the Anvil the Stone
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The Fray thank you for your acceptance.
01:37 PM on 02/26/09
#3
newfoundmichael
@SirDaveyBoy
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I just find these guys so bland. Nothing sets them apart in my mind from anything else in this genre.
08:54 PM on 02/26/09
#4
Just Matt
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RIYL: Pondering Life's Dissapointments

Cracks me up everytime I read it
09:37 PM on 02/26/09
#5
LongDistanceDrunk
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I just find these guys so bland. Nothing sets them apart in my mind from anything else in this genre.
Exactly how I feel.
11:32 PM on 02/26/09
#6
briXinRhands
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I didn't know the new album wasn't very well liked. I really enjoy it, it's more consistent than their last and I think the piano and the vocals really set them apart from a lot of other similar bands.
05:41 AM on 02/27/09
#7
Piss
Oh Noes!
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they remind me of a crappier version of secondhand serenade
07:57 AM on 02/27/09
#8
Yellowcard2006
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I was wondering when a review was gonna be up. Great review, exactly how I feel about the album. Critics have been way too harsh on the reviews.
08:21 AM on 02/27/09
#9
Jeremy Aaron
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I've got nothing against a good pop-rock record and I enjoyed a lot of How to Save a Life. However, the only track I though was any good from this album is "Absolute." Once you get past the first three songs, if you can stay awake for the rest, you're a better man than me.
09:09 AM on 02/27/09
DarkBlue13
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This is a great review but there are some serious grammar errors in here. No one is going to take you seriously if you can't proofread your work.
12:44 PM on 02/27/09
MusicTalks
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I'm pretty sure that DarkBlue, almost certainly a Lit major, is the only one who really noticed the issues with the grammar. The grammatical errors aren't that noticeable, unless your name is 'Spelling and Grammar Check'. With that said, I can't get on board with The Fray. I don't know, there's something about it that has always put me off of their sound. I did like the review tho.
01:40 PM on 02/27/09
sargentlgfuad
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they remind me of a crappier version of secondhand serenade
...... ......
01:49 PM on 02/27/09
thepianominstre
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Been waiting for a review for this... and while I'm normally a grammar nazi I don't remember wincing at anything (I did kinda speed-read it tho and I don't feel like going through it again)

Anyway, I absolutely loved the first album and really wanted to like this one but I cannot get into it at all... I don't know if I'm not identifying with the lyrics or if the melodies aren't as good or if the production's too safe or what, but I get painfully bored every time I try to get through this album (streamed or borrowed). And I still think of How to Save A Life as probably one of my top 10 albums.

I was looking forward to purchasing this album but instead I finally got around to getting Viva La Vida, and what a contrast... even aside from all the clever things about that album, sometimes they'll just get into a good light-rock groove and I think, they could ride this progression instrumentally for five minutes and I would not be bored. There's absolutely nothing on the new Fray album that grabs me, neither clever-wise nor groove-wise.
04:46 PM on 02/27/09
DarkBlue13
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I'm pretty sure that DarkBlue, almost certainly a Lit major, is the only one who really noticed the issues with the grammar. The grammatical errors aren't that noticeable, unless your name is 'Spelling and Grammar Check'. With that said, I can't get on board with The Fray. I don't know, there's something about it that has always put me off of their sound. I did like the review tho.
Hahaha no I'm actually an engineering major. I don't even usually get bothered by that kind of stuff, but for some reason there were two sentences in a row that had errors that just threw off the whole flow of the review. Either way, GREAT album and the review was very insightful.
04:52 PM on 02/27/09
DI Pistola
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Some music is sleep-inducing because it's peaceful in all the right tones and rhythms. The Fray is sleep-inducing because their music is just goddamned boring.

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