If you liked the Fray's 2005 breakthrough album, the double-platinum "How to Save a Life," then you're sure to like the quartet's new self-titled album, "The Fray." It's pretty much more of the same: angst-ridden lyrics couched in piano-based pop melodies.
First single "You Found Me" got a huge boost from its usage in ABC's promos for "Lost" and its inclusion on "Grey's Anatomy," and is already shaping up to be a massive hit for the band although only time will tell if it wears as well as previous hits, "How to Save a Life" and "Over My Head(Cable Car)." "You Found Me" opens with a great line: "I found God on the corner of First and Amistad/all alone smoking his last cigarette."
The Fray aren't afraid to ask the big questions: "Absolute" ponders "is this all we get" from life. Album-closer "Happiness" serves as a meditation on joy and how difficult it can be to attain.
But that's the problem with The Fray: The music doesn't meet the payoff the words promise. The words take the listener on a compelling, emotional journey, but all too often, the music remains static, not building to the crescendo found in the words. For example on "Never Say Never," lead singer Isaac Slade is pleads "don't let me go," but the music doesn't meet the emotion.
A clear exception is "We Build, Then We Break," which has a nifty drum-and-bass thing going on and the very end of "Happiness."
The good news is that "The Fray" shows growth in the band's storytelling and sounds like a step up from the last album, so as the group gains more experience, its musical exploration may expand as well.
The album is meant to be listened to as a piece in its entirely in order. That seems almost like a bold step these days in this iTunes world of cherry picking singles. Listeners who do drop the proverbial needle at the beginning and stay tuned until the last note, will be taken on a rewarding-enough journey, it's just not one with many peaks and valleys.