CD Review of The Fray by The Fray
The Fray: The Fray
Recommended if you like
David Gray, Coldplay, Ben Folds
The Fray: The Fray

Reviewed by Mike Farley


t took almost three years for pop/rock quartet the Fray to follow up their uber-successful 2005 effort, How to Save a Life, maybe because they got a lot of mileage out of their major label debut, with lead single "Over My Head (Cable Car)" about as ubiquitous as any song in recent memory – on TV shows like "Grey’s Anatomy," on VH-1, in elevators, on your sister’s iPod, or even on your parents’ iPods. Success like that needs room to breathe, and so three-plus years later, the Fray is back with its sophomore self-titled release. Produced by Mike Flynn and Aaron Johnson, the same team that took the reins for How to Save a Life, this album is everything you might expect it to be – the same melodic, piano-driven anthems delivered with Isaac Slade’s throaty alt-rock croon. In other words, a continuation of the band’s debut, which is not a bad thing at all. There are those who will slam the Fray for being dull and cookie-cutter-ish, but folks from those camps are usually in denial, hiding songs from bands like this in their "guilty pleasures" iTunes folder. (Oops, too many plugs for Apple in this review already.)

The lead song, "Syndicate," takes exactly 45 seconds to build into a huge chorus, a trick Slade and company can now perform in their sleep. It also does this effectively as a mid-tempo track, as does the next number, "Absolute." "You Found Me" was first introduced on an episode of (you guessed it) "Grey’s Anatomy" back in November as well as on "Lost," and it’s, well, more of the same formula. But the best tracks are the ones in which Slade broods in minor keys while the piano is doing some sort of counter-melody – like "Say When," or the falsetto-laced, David Gray-ish "Ungodly Hour."

What’s missing mostly here is an upbeat track – something along the lines of "She Is" from the band’s debut, because sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much of the same thing. Still, the Fray has found a niche and won’t let go of it just yet, because it’s likely putting the band members’ kids through college and setting them up with boats and summer homes and other things a tough economy makes hard to come by otherwise. And a struggling music industry needs bands like this – bands that know their broad audience, and know that sometimes a winning formula is what’s needed to keep that audience, and to keep music supervisors and programmers smiling.

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