Review Summary: Harmless to the point of painful mediocrity
As unabashedly mediocre The Fray's discography may be, there was always the sense that this would be a band to leave behind some sort of legacy; perhaps it is just a fleeting impression from the band's mainstream success. The radio hit that was "How to Save a Life" was just that, a hit, but time and time again The Fray has tread the line between musical success and being one-hit-wonder sort of band, the kind that makes a large initial splash, only to then sink into the murky depths of mediocrity. The Fray's familiar piano rock has no doubt a certain degree of attractiveness to it, but 2014 release "Helios"
, crafted two albums later after "How To Save a Life", has refused to venture out of the band's comfort zone. The result is a bewildering rehash that is vaguely different in the worst ways but still cut from the same cloth.
Album opener "Hold My Hand" showcases basically everything that The Fray is about nowadays, including all of the band's shortcomings. It meanders on, anchored by a sugary anthem of a chorus that sounds weaker with each successive repetition, making it clear that The Fray are seemingly hell-bent on creating the most innocuous, radio-friendly, family-car-ride-friendly music possible. The jingly piano seems to drive this home perfectly, being even catchy at times only to be drowned out by the same-y choruses and lazy instrumentals. Perhaps the ultimate affront isn't the blandness of the music, but the way it was produced - "Helios"
is veritably soaked in reverb, in a seemingly desperate attempt to cover the musical lapses present throughout. Everything from Isaac Slade's degenerating vocal performance, to the synthesizer, to the robotic percussion section, is dressed in the same transparent garb as arena rock. It pretends to be grander and more bombastic than it actually is.
represents a band that has tripped to fall on its knees, desperately clinging to its past. Cash-grab or lackluster attempt at cementing a legacy, either way it is an insignificant and soulless hodgepodge of simple chord progressions and modern rock generica.