The Fray's "The Fray": A Review
Posted February 03, 2009
by C.E. Moore
People who are genetically predisposed towards hating the kind of music that The Fray puts out may wonder why I am giving their sophomore album, “The Fray” such a high rating. What is more, long time fans of the band who cringe at the slightest tweak of the band’s signature sound may wonder the same thing. That is all well and good. To tell the truth, I am the one person on the planet who hadn’t heard about The Fray until a few weeks ago when I received a press release detailing their simultaneous release on a mainstream and Christian music label. I kid you not. I’ve been laughed at a lot these last few weeks.
Anyhow, if The Fray’s self-titled sophomore effort is any indication of their previous work (which I did not listen to, so as to keep my opinion bias-free), then I imagine it must have been a sound to behold. “The Fray” is just an amazing piece of music. I mean, I really cannot get over how much I like this band. I don’t know if they would consider themselves a Christian band in the narrow, classic sense of the word, but I wish more Christian bands could hone their craft to sound like this and mine life for the depth of lyricism that is found here.
But, before I talk about the songs, I want to make mention of the album’s packaging. I know paper CD slipcases are nothing new, but The Fray’s looks really nice. As the economy slows to a crawl, paper packaging is both fiscally and environmentally responsible. Artistically speaking, the neon lights motif is utilized very well. The liner notes features a picture of a different neon sign on each page that denotes the song’s title. The theme is executed well and provides the listener with a visual companion to deepen any contemplation that might take place along the way.
A top-notch piano line begins “Syndicate,” before guitars rise to the fore and frontman Isaac Slade steps up to the microphone. His voice is as big as the music behind it, but Slade never overpowers nor does he lost in the…well, fray. “Absolute” is a robust number that vascillates between hard and fast and light and thoughtful. Slade has noted that this song “could very well be inspired by the risk of long distance relationships,” as each of the band members is now married and spends a significant amount of time away from their significant other due to life on the road. “You Found Me” has been making the rounds on Christian radio since early January and is a song rich with pain and insight. Slade sings, “Lost and insecure, You found me, You found me/Lying on the floor, surrounded, surrounded/Why’d You have to wait, where were You, where were You/Just a little late, You found me, You found me…” Coming out of a tough time in Slade’s life (that continues even now), this is ultimately a song about the demands upon one’s faith to keep believing. “Never Say Never” is a song about a tumultuous relationship that breaks apart only to come back together again. Wash, rinse, repeat. We all know of relationships like this, and the lyrics here are raw while being intensely accessible. “Ungodly Hour” is…beautiful. Slade lightly sings, “Don’t talk, don’t say a thing/Cause your eyes they tell me more than your words/Don’t go, don’t leave me now/Cause they say the best way out is through…” This one strikes between the eyes for me, someone who has faced abandonment when fighting for the relationship was all that I wanted to do. I’ve had this one on repeat for the better part of the afternoon. The album closes out with “Happiness” and this is paradoxical poetry that will have the listener pondering what moved Slade to pen the lyrics. Happiness damn near destroys you? What does that mean? Is this song about true happiness, the unending pursuit of something beyond our grasp, or the flitting away of the happiness we already have in the quest for a form of happiness that doesn’t even exist?
But, I need to be a critic for a moment, right? So, allow me a moment to lodge a complaint in the slightest form. The only grievance I might have with “The Fray” is that the band’s sound can be a bit repetitive. The lyrics are the saving grave in those moments, but it might grate some people the wrong way. I, for one, wish the album were a bit longer to remedy this situation.
That being said, this album is flat-out amazing. If you like the sound of piano-driven rock music, pick this one up.
By the way, I just downloaded The Fray’s entire discography…
This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from The Christian Manifesto. Click here to visit TheChristianManifesto.com today!
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