There are enough haunting hooks and delicately well written tunes here.
Jaime Gill 2009-02-06
Having secured a monster radio hit with How To Save A Life and seen its parent album become the biggest download seller ever, The Fray return with a second that resolutely avoids messing with the recipe. A stew of angsty earnestness, piano melancholy and anthemic melodies, like a Coldplay who have never heard Kraftwerk, The Fray will either move or bore you to tears, depending on your disposition.
Although cynics will no doubt accuse The Fray of commercial opportunism, there's little on the album to make you question the band's sincerity. Like their debut, The Fray tackles big questions – the struggles of everyday life, family dysfunction, the existence of God – and wraps them in a big sound, all pounding pianos, swollen guitars and Isaac Slade's hoarse, cracked falsetto.
Sometimes the songs generate the emotional weight The Fray clearly hope for. The single You Found Me packs a punch, thanks to its hauntingly simple piano hook and surging, impassioned chorus, as well as lyrics which see Slade challenge God for his apparent indifference. And both the harmony-borne Absolute and bruising We Build Then We Break slowly work their way under your skin, like Chris Martin at his most introspective.
Unfortunately, there are more moments where this uniformity of approach becomes drearily samey, and the songs blur into each other. When they're coupled with hackneyed lyrics – as on Happiness, which insists, ''happiness feels a lot like sorrow, let it be'' – the results are neither inspired nor inspiring. However, when the band does strike out in new directions, such as on the shuffling, fragile Ungodly Hour, they win your attention again.
There are enough haunting hooks and delicately well written tunes here to ensure The Fray hang on to their fervent fanbase, but little to win over newcomers. If they're to defy the law of diminishing returns, they'll need some fresh air blowing through their third.