Idol Chatter

thefraypic.jpgIt makes sense that, when young Christian rockers began to struggle free of the mannered CCM format, they would gravitate toward emo, the brooding, melodic rock genre that trades punk’s teenage angst for teenage “issues.”
Exhibit A: The Fray, a band of Christian believers from Denver, had a strong debut with “How to Save a Life,” a passionate and catchy radio hit (thanks in part to its appearance on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy”) that might be a public service announcement for the importance of talking to your teenager. It showed what a short leap it is from Christian Nashville’s plaintive, “where were you, God?” soft rock to swirling, Nashville-tinged emo pop (Chremo?) about reaching out when life gets hard.

The Fray’s new self-titled second album repeats the successful formula of their first: pulsing rhythms driving lead singer Isaac Slade’s powerful rasp, a quiet desperation about life’s toughest moments (and another TV tie-in, this time with the thriller “Lost”). The certain radio hit “You Found Me,” raises the bar established with “How to Save a Life,” starting with a tinkling piano and building to an all-hands anthem.
If a few too many songs are similarly shaped–as if the Fray is afraid to get too far from the crowd pleasing, arm-waving moments that made them– others resist the easy pop bait. The songs that end the disc, in particular, “Ungodly Hour,” a hushed, hymnlike ballad, and “Happiness,” that barely staves off its rising tide of emotion, both show a promising willingness to break their own mold.

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