Sounds like … a straight sequel of the band's blockbuster debut, How to Save a Life, borrowing the earnest, piano-based pop of Keane or Snow Patrol and the mid-tempo rock of a less-rootsy Counting Crows.

At a glance … studied, serious pop songs that lack any real sense of pleasure or purpose, given a faceless studio sheen that renders them totally harmless and completely forgettable.

There's nothing wrong with one band borrowing some of the tropes and traits of another. Art, after all, builds on itself, and some of the richest and most meaningful music is that which builds upon a particular tradition. Led Zeppelin nicked half their riffs from old blues songs, Paul McCartney learned everything he knows about songwriting from old-time rock 'n' roll and British music hall, and even Bob Dylan has been known to borrow a few lines from ancient folk songs.

So the mere fact that The Fray borrows each element of its sound from another band—be it U2's arena-filling swell, Counting Crows' earnest pop, or Ben Folds' piano-based compositions—is not necessarily a problem. What is a problem is the fact that, inexplicably, the band seems to pinpoint the very worst qualities of their influences, rather than picking their greatest strengths. Specifically, they amplify U2's zeal into a humorless earnestness and dull down Counting Crows' maturity and focus into songs that lack any real hooks or dynamics. And worse yet, they combine all these influences in what may be the least attractive way possible, giving this album a faceless studio sheen that downplays what weak melodies they have and puts all the emphasis on singer Isaac Slade's anguished vocals.

And those vocals really typify everything that's wrong here. The ...

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The Fray
Our Rating
1 Star - Weak
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Artist
Release Date
February 3, 2009
Label
Sony Legacy
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