A piano-pounding chorus? Check.
Heart-wrenching lyrics? Check.
Aired during an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”? Check.
Yep, “You Found Me” is The Fray’s new single – and as you read this review, it’s busy dominating the iTunes music store along with their self-titled sophomore album.
The song has its merits, including a killer little guitar riff during the verse and a moderately hummable chorus, but it also unfortunately represents The Fray’s dedication to crafting chart-topping, inoffensive pop rock instead of genuinely interesting or challenging music.
Apparently, The Fray listened to their multi-platinum monster of a debut (“How to Save a Life”) and decided that they liked it so much that they wanted to record it twice. That would certainly explain why every other track on The Fray shoots for either the undeniable pop hook of “Over My Head (Cable Car)” or the unbridled pathos of “How to Save a Life.”
Unfortunately, such attempts leave The Fray sounding even more stale, over-produced, and inorganic than on their last record.
Part of the problem is that singer and pianist Isaac Slade hasn’t shed his habit of delivering nearly every single line with an exaggeratedly sorrowful croon. The result is fairly predictable: When each drawn-out word is intended to bear as much emotional weight as the last ten minutes of “The Titanic,” none of them end up resonating.
Pair that with lyrics straight out of a reality TV confessional (“lost and insecure / you found me / lying on the floor”) and The Fray is so sappy that it should be sold at supermarket next to Mrs. Buttersworth.
It’s not just Slade’s fault. His supporting cast doesn’t compose anything but trudging minor-key ballads (they’re apparently allergic to major scales and upbeat tempos). The result is a vacuum of sonic diversity: One big, opaque malaise of verses on top of verses, choruses on top of interminable choruses.
So when “We Build Then We Break” plunges headlong into a synthed-out bass line, chiming guitar, and hip-hop inspired percussion, it’s like waking up from a coma. The track’s euphoric yet delightfully dissonant climax is a garage-rock guitar jam followed by, of all things, a short drum solo.
Then there’s “Happiness.” Don’t let the name fool you: This song’s as angst-ridden as the rest of them (good luck figuring out how, “happiness damn near destroys you [and] breaks your faith to pieces on the floor”). But its emphasis on a folksy acoustic guitar riff is nothing if not a welcome breath of fresh air.
Sadly, the best moments on The Fray are few and far between. If “How to Save a Life” left you begging for more, then this will satisfy. Otherwise, you’re better off not entering The Fray.
Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.