The Fray were among the first of the flood of bands that combined the influence of British neo-stadium acts like Coldplay and Keane, the retro-AOR bands of the mid-'90s -- chief among them Counting Crows and the Wallflowers -- and American emo-pop bands like Something Corporate and Jimmy Eat World. The Denver four-piece has the requisite piano and flag-waving choruses of the Brits, the slick sound and unfailing conservatism of the AOR bands, and the over-emoted vocals and confessional nature that are cornerstones of emo. All the songs on their debut, How to Save a Life, sound almost exactly alike and also exactly like you would expect -- sincere, melodic, authentic, and bereft of anything surprising or exciting. This doesn't make for the kind of record that people will want to listen to over and over again but for modern rock, it isn't half-bad. A couple of songs, like "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "Dead Wrong," might even sound good in the background of a WB teen drama. [A Japanese version was also released.]
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