Meet the Fraysayers

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Dull. Boring. Formulaic. Uniformly bland. Uninteresting. Calculated. Inoffensive. Forgettable. These are just a few of the adjectives that various critics from across the country have used to describe the Fray's self-titled sophomore release. As observed in this column last week, the band is clearly resonating with its fans -- earlier this week, the outfit checked in at number one on Billboard's Top 200, besting the Boss, no less -- while taking just an absolute beating from the critics. After the jump, we've posted excerpts from a number of the more scathing reviews we've come across, to give you an idea of what pundits across the country (and world, in some cases) are saying about these hometown heroes. Feel free to co-sign these opinions or weigh in with one of your own (ahem...paging JP).

Source: Christianity Today
Ouch Factor: 3
Key Quote: "So the mere fact that The Fray borrows each element of its sound from another band--be it U2's arena-filling swell, Counting Crows' earnest pop, or Ben Folds' piano-based compositions--is not necessarily a problem. What is a problem is the fact that, inexplicably, the band seems to pinpoint the very worst qualities of their influences, rather than picking their greatest strengths. Specifically, they amplify U2's zeal into a humorless earnestness and dull down Counting Crows' maturity and focus into songs that lack any real hooks or dynamics. And worse yet, they combine all these influences in what may be the least attractive way possible, giving this album a faceless studio sheen that downplays what weak melodies they have and puts all the emphasis on singer Isaac Slade's anguished vocals."

Source: About.Com
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote: "If you want to hear an earnest, emotional pop-rock song slowly rising in intensity The Fray are your band. However, if you get bored by the same thing musically after awhile, you are likely to stray from concentration on their new album. The talent of the Colorado-based band is obvious, but that only makes the dull repetition here that much more frustrating."

Source: IntheNews.co.uk
Ouch Factor: 2
Key Quote: "Preceded by the single You Found Me, this second full-length offering from the Fray is relatively short as albums go. It offers just ten songs and lasts about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, that's about 45 minutes too long."

Source: The London Free Press
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote: "This is all Meredith's fault. Grey's Anatomy turned these wussy piano-rockers into stars by overplaying the title cut from their debut How to Save a Life. So naturally, the Denver foursome's self-titled sophomore disc has another soundalike set of anthemic arena-rock ballads pitched midway between U2, Coldplay and Counting Crows. Somebody get the adrenaline, stat!"

Star-Telegram (Dallas)
Ouch Factor: 3
Key Quote: "Pleasing, sure, but a lot like wolfing down a box of Twinkies: enjoyable at the time, but immediately forgettable once digested and certainly not something worth doing more than once. Fronted by Isaac Slade, whose wounded, scraped-out voice serves as further window dressing and conveys a gravitas and intensity that does not exist, the Fray is one of modern rock's blandest groups, an act distinguished by its vanilla songs and lack of spark."

Source: Daily Cardinal (University of Wisconsin)
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote(s): "With that said, anyone who enjoyed How to Save a Life will no doubt take pleasure in the Fray's second edition of catchy, pop-rock ballads. The Fray contains more fast tempos than the band's last release, but also has a more monotonous sound. If the album is not listened to carefully, it's easy to miss the transition between one song ending and the next beginning."

"Amongst the monotony there are a few highlights, with "Enough for Now" being the most profound of the bunch. Yet, the album isn't a sophomore slump as much as it is a repeat of freshman year. Hopefully, next time the Fray will be able to graduate to the next level."

Source: Metronews.ca (Ottawa, Canada)
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote(s):
"In an ideal world, talent would equate with record sales, but we all know that reality is just a pipe dream."

"The Fray are one platinum selling act that prove, yet again, that bland, uninspiring tunes are all you need to create to be famous."

"On the band's third effort they once again produce extremely watered down Coldplay-like piano ballads and thoughtless über-mainstream rock; perfect for a sappy Grey's Anatomy episode, but not so great for anyone who actually likes listening to music."

Source: Patrol Magazine (New York)
Ouch Factor: 5
Key Quote:
"The music is just as calculated, inoffensive, and forgettable. The record shows I have no objection to music that's decidedly mainstream, but the Fray's problem isn't that their name is all over New York City taxis when they've only produced two hits. The issue, I'm afraid, is that they were never terribly talented in the first place, and even a bottomless budget and nationwide promotional blitz can't cover that up."

Source: Allmusic.com
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote:
"It's testament to the band's appeal that "You Found Me" became a Top 10 single before The Fray was even released, but that likely speaks to its familiarity -- this is, after all, the equivalent of How to Save a Life, Pt. 2 -- rather than any purported originality."

Source: NY Daily News
Ouch Factor: 4
Key Quote(s):
"Yet no act has struck the necessary balance of profundity and dullness with the canny precision of the Fray. This Denver group shot to the fore two years ago when their song "How to Save a Life" provided a tear-up moment as reliable as peeling an onion for an episode of "Grey's Anatomy." The week after the song appeared, sales of the band's debut CD shot up 283%. The cut itself went on to inspire 2.5 million downloads."

"Small wonder the sound is so popular and pervasive. In the same way Muzak sets the tone for shopping, the Fray's TV soundtracks set a mood for feeling, without once offering a character of their own, or telling you exactly why you should be feeling in the first place."

Source: SmartRemarx.com
Ouch Factor: 2
Key Quote(s):
"Like an old friend that comes to dinner and tells the same stories you've heard a million times before, The Fray has released a set of new tracks that sound remarkably like every other song in their repertoire. Squashy, meandering piano-driven ballads, limp vocals and understated production (like the lead single You Found Me) dominate The Fray, which has just enough pop sensibility to make a run at double-ununseptium."

"The first listen-through, it was almost complete background noise, worthy of your next elevator ride. The only song that penetrated my consciousness was Never Say Never with its soaring crescendo and its bleating cry "don't let me go." I couldn't even swear that it was a bad album really because it's entirely possible I never heard 90% of it despite playing the whole thing."

Source: Daily Californian
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote:
"After going multi-platinum with their first album, How to Save a Life, Denver's alternative rock band, the Fray, stick to the same recipe in another serving of despondent tunes."

"The Fray is almost entirely piano driven, with little artistic experimentation. The songs stick to a simple, repetitive formula that continuously drives plaintive lyrics into your mind. Slade's vocal style protracts syllables at the end of nearly every clause, verbalizing some type of heartache."

Source: Newsday.com
Ouch Factor: 1
Key Quote(s):
"So for their follow-up, The Fray simply did the same thing all over again. "The Fray" (Epic) is, on paper, zero-risk music making. They took the pieces that worked on their debut and re-created them for the sophomore album."

"As the first single, "You Found Me," has proved, you know exactly how this album is going to sound - the same as the last one. Sure, words change here and there and some songs are slightly faster than midtempo and some are slightly slower, but that's about it."

Ouch factor legend:

1 - the written equivalent of a paper cut
2 - slamming a finger in a car door
3 - catching a hockey puck on the beak
4 - enduring a root canal performed with rusty vice grips by someone with the shakes
5 - a junk punch from Chuck Liddell with solid steel brass knuckles

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