Plumbiferous Media

The Fray – The Fray

Feb 8th 2009
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The Fray - The FrayThe Fray
The Fray
Score: 61

The Fray has enjoyed essentially constant growth since their founding in 2002. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy, released a double platinum album (How to Save a Life), and have steadily increased in popularity. While their music is certainly radio-friendly with all the inoffensive regularity that implies, it also has enough complexity to make it worth considering. Accordingly, we found their new self-titled album, if not brilliantly unique, at least above-average.

The Fray opens with a no-nonsense start. It gets right into the ‘good stuff’: the dense, but manageable, bright sounds and carrying vocals of the album. The problem, though, is that doesn’t leave much for the rest of the album (the following two tracks are a testament to this). Still, there are a number of other parts that come into focus. “Say When” provides a nice tone change from the previous tracks, though it builds back up to the same dense sounds again, and “Never Say Never” is a light track – compared to “Syndicate.” “Enough for Now” also often recedes from the stadium rock quality of many of the tracks, and provides a needed contrast at a critical place in the album, the later-middle that often causes even the best albums to sag.

What pulls the tracks apart is not whether the tracks are light or dense but rather how loud the tracks are. And indeed, there are a very large number of degrees of loudness which actually provide a nice undertone to the album as a whole, though it might take ten listen-throughs to pick up on this. As for the lyrics, they follow the album. The subjects aren’t vastly varied, and lines are often repeated a ridiculous number of times, but the simple lyrics convey ideas closely matched by everything else on the album.

While The Fray is certainly not entirely formulaic, it retains enough formulaic elements to damage its sense of originality. It’s easy to imagine the album as having ample radio play – it’s not especially different in any way, and it easily blends into the background if it’s not given the utmost attention. The tracks rely on many of the same elements throughout, which has the effect of making the individual tracks far too close for comfort. Once this effect has set in and The Fray begins to seem increasingly like a single very long track, even the entirely reasonable length of each individual track begins to seem artificially long.

Though the lyrics are certainly better-written than those of many other mainstream rock albums, we’re dealing with familiar territory here, from tragic love stories to religious despair. The Fray has occasional moments of lyrical excellence, most notably the opening lines of “I Found You,” where Slade’s tale of finding “God on the corner of First and Amistad” injects a new level of significance not usually found in such music, or, in fact, this album. Most of the album suffers from an overdose of decency – it’s decent, and no more. It’s completely inoffensive and as a result it does nothing more than sit in the background sounding, well, decent.

The Fray is, if nothing else, dependent upon rock as a whole for a good deal of its inspiration, and, in fact, content. Nevertheless, enough of its elements are unique to prevent it from being entirely swept up in the stream that is mainstream mediocrity. In their newest album, The Fray has managed to take the elements that make up any generic album and has made them more interesting, most notably the lyrics and, to a certain degree, their musical backing. However, the album as a whole still suffers from this mediocre foundation, and the lack of true distinction between the tracks is a serious problem. Perhaps it’s best to think of The Fray as 10 attempts at the same track. Hey, at least the track is decent.

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