There’s something extremely formulaic about The Fray. This is said time and time again, generally in respect to sentimental “adult” contemporary artists such as Coldplay, John Mayer and Snow Patrol, to name a few. The most successful of these acts are those who get it right — they are able to create the same, or at least largely similar, sound on each album they release and are capable of moving as many copies of that album as its predecessor.
What’s the flaw to using the same approach on each record? I present an answer (somewhat): Each record is a mere sidestep as opposed to a step forward, making each record not particularly bad, but nothing to write home about. The Fray’s third release, “Scars & Stories” is definitely indicative of this.
Every one of the Fray’s huge singles, whether it be “How to Save a Life,” “You Found Me” or “Over My Head (Cable Car),” all utilize the same musical ploys: mellow piano, lead singer Isaac Slade’s oh-so-earnest voice of longing and tremendous, and hair-raising emotional build-ups. “Heartbeat” and “Run for Your Life” are clearly the results of The Fray’s finely-tuned, piano-rock tactics.
Singles aside, but still in the front of the mind, “Scars & Stories” operates just as similarly to the band’s previous records. The songs are mere offshoots of the singles. For example, take “The Fighter,” which follows “Heartbeat.” Its chorus chants, “Maybe we were meant to be lonely.” The yearning, love-hungry qualities are still thrown in your face. One can ideate rather quickly what the song’s meaning might entail.
Each song on “Scars & Stories” follows the same template: they’re all loud, accessible, sensitive and Fray-like in every way, shape and form.
The Fray’s plain style is not necessarily a bad thing. Music listeners more often than not have, at the very least, a miniature obsession with a Fray song. Its style is definitely luring, even if it seems more than spent after three albums. I do feel, however, that The Fray is a band that it’s good to take a break from, as eventually one’s definition of modern music will be completely warped.