The Fray

How to Save a Life

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The Fray was among the first flood of bands that combined the influence of British neo-stadium acts like Coldplay and Keane, the retro-AOR bands of the mid-'90s -- chief among them Counting Crows and the Wallflowers -- and American emo-pop bands like Something Corporate and Jimmy Eat World. The Denver four-piece has the requisite piano and flag-waving choruses of the Brits, the slick sound and unfailing conservatism of the aforementioned AOR bands, and the over-emoted vocals and confessional nature that are cornerstones of emo. What they don't have is much originality. All the songs on their debut, How to Save a Life, sound almost exactly alike and also exactly like you would expect -- sincere, melodic, authentic, and bereft of anything surprising or exciting. This doesn't make for the kind of record that people will want to listen to over and over again but for modern rock, it isn't half-bad. The Fray try hard and they never really do anything offensive. A couple of songs, like "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "Dead Wrong," might even sound good in the background of a WB teen drama. You just can't picture them giving anyone chills, or kids text-messaging their friends to tell them about this great new band they just heard. That kind of reaction comes from inspiration and excitement, two vital factors that How to Save a Life and the Fray themselves are sorely lacking.

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