The Fray – The Fray


Band: The Fray
Album: The Fray
Genre: Pop Rock
Label: Epic

Track Listing:
1. Syndicate
2. Absolute
3. You Found Me
4. Say When
5. Never Say Never
6. Where The Story Ends
7. Enough For Now
8. Ungodly Hour
9. We Build Then We Break
10. Happiness

If there’s such a thing as the toughest act to follow is yourself, then The Fray define it. their last album, How To Save A Life literally engulfed American Top 40 radio for nearly an entire year. Something about the mix of clean vocals, basically clean lyrics, and cutesy piano based songs that really pulls at America’s heart strings. The Fray allow us to feel deep without having to deal too much with actual deep topics. Some called them America’s Coldplay, but that is an outright fallacy. They just found the perfect chords to be a hit, but the curse of that is setting the bar high for the sophomore effort. Their self titled follow up just hit shelves and it seems like maybe the boys just can’t live up to the hype they themselves developed.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can point out a song by The Fray from the opening four bars. The piano pop formula they developed might as well be called “Fray structure.” All their singles and a lot of the debut had the same subtle start then was followed with crescendos, crooning, and near straining key changes. It works, but no one buys into a one trick pony twice. “Syndicate,” and, “Absolute,” the album’s kickoff points both fall horribly into this formula and the worst is that it’s been done by this band so much better. Neither song jumps off at you, but instead feels forced to be deep. However, the single, “You Found Me,” the current single, which also follow the formula, is a hit. It bleeds oversaturated love. These emotions and questions about Faith just hit like a frying pan to the face. No subtlety, but rather displaced teen angst and confusion as told from an adult’s point of view. We finally get a different sound on tracks like, “Say When,” and, “Ungodly Hour,” gives signs of growth, but they are simply buried in the redundancy of the “cord followed by falling or rising notes and then another chord” intro the Fray capitalizes on again and again.

There is something to be said for the idea of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I’m not sure it applies here. Rock bands, like The Red Hot Chili Peppers make this phrase true because they expanded on the same formula they always had, but that expansion showed growth. More production and strings, as is the case on The Fray’s record, is not growth, just money thrown at a cash cow. It’s still a cash cow regardless. There is no risk though, no, “wow, this is new and good [or bad].” I will add though, the battles with Faith that seem to take center stage more times than not do generally get your mind thinking while listening. It’s not the deepest or most creative lyrics, but it’s catchy none the less. So catchy that one has to catch themselves from believing there’s more being said than truly is. Some bands can turn deep thoughts into hooks, but other bands write hooks that sound deep. The latter is the Fray and one must be careful to not get caught in this trap.

So what’s the deal with the Fray’s new album? It’s far, far, far, far too safe. There’s no risk. Nothing new is brought to the plate and you don’t have to catch your attention. It all comes across as songs left in the studio from the previous album set to different lyrics and different keys. I have no doubt that they’re good at what they do, which is writing catchy piano pop, but as I said earlier, no one buys a one trick pony twice and I’m sure that will hold true here.

*Written By: James Shotwell*
Grade: 5/10

James Shotwell
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