Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Fray Sounding Like The Frames

This review in the New York Times intrigued me to check out Denver-based rockers The Fray, who played at Webster Hall here in New York the other night. The first thing that caught my attention was the headline:

Tender Folk-Rock With Arena Oomph

That sounds like something that I could get into.

And then there was this tempting description:

Dave Welsh plays keening lead-guitar notes like the Edge in U2.

As it turns out, the Webster Hall show was available yesterday and today on the band's website, so I've been checking it out. (Maybe it will stay up longer?)

First off, the recording is pretty amazing -- both in terms of having a good live sound (an appropriate blend of well-mixed music and crowd noise) and then also having very high-quality video images.

Second off, this band sounds a lot like The Frames, the Irish rock band that became a bit more famous when lead singer Glen Hansard starred in the movie Once. Jon Pareles' review nails it on the head, then, when he writes:

Hooks are laid out neatly as each song begins — a piano riff, repeating guitar notes — and the Fray understands dynamics. Its songs head for dramatic plateaus and linger there, building insistently as Mr. Slade moans lines like “Maybe you want her, maybe you need her.”

That sounds like The Frames to me, and when David and I first saw them together four or five years ago, I had a negative reaction to it: they (The Frames, not The Fray) struck me as one-trick ponies -- using dynamic build in every single song to get things to an emotional climax that would come around again in a few minutes during the next song.

But when I started listening to their CD, The Frames grew on me a bit, and I would have been more forgiving, I think, if I had been more familiar with their material.

And maybe that would have been the case for Jon Pareles, as well, who ends his review of The Fray saying,

Isolated on a soundtrack a song by the Fray can underline the sentiment in a scene. But at a full-length concert, the limits of the Fray’s music emerged. After a while the piano hymns and pealing-guitar anthems all ran together as one long whine.


The third thing about this band is that, damn, they also sound a lot like the Counting Crows -- the guitar and piano hooks could be straight off of August and Everything After and the vocals strongly channel Adam Duritz. But like the similarities to The Frames' dynamics, neither of those things are necessarily bad.

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