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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