Classics Revisited: The Fray - 'How To Save A Life'

An emphatic debut album from American alternative-rock band The Fray, How To Save A Life celebrates its 16th anniversary today. Amrit Virdi revisits the band’s career-setting and impactful record for The Mic’s Classics Revisited series.

Mostly being known for its title track, aptly featured on hit TV series Grey’s Anatomy, How To Save A Life from The Fray, released on September 14th 2005 via Epic Records, will forever be one of my favourite albums of all time. A reflection of 2000’s guitar-led rock, the album is both lyrically honest and sonically cohesive, and in my opinion the best record from the band out of their discography.

Clearly well received by fans, the album ranked #21 on Billboard's list of the Best Digital Albums of the Decade, and it charted in the top ten in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK upon its release. Three of its singles Over My Head (Cable Car), How To Save A Life and Look After You all charted in the Billboard Top 100, with How To Save A Life being the band’s most well-known track to date. While this track is both poignant and beautifully made, the record as a whole is full of Isaac Slade’s creative genius, especially in the deeper cuts.

Tackling motifs of loneliness, love and the struggles of life, the record is soul bearing and gets to the roots of the band’s musicality. To me, it is the best record from their discography; as the years went on, the band’s more pop-leaning stance seemed to detract from where I think their genius lies – in the lyricism. While some may say it’s cliché, I think that, for the time it was written, it worked in the band’s favour to make the album such a success.

"Their debut seems to be where the creative seeds flourished"

Opening track She Is is punchy and captures the essence of alt-rock. A strong drum beat and affirming electric guitars accompany the adoring words, yet the span of instrumentation and creative structure on the record is wide-ranging and this track by no means defines the album. A stand-alone piano ballad is present in Hundred, and mellower piano led instrumentation paired with haunting singings seem to make a common appearance in the record, notably in Vienna, Fall Away and one of my personal favourites Heaven Forbid. This is built upon in the band’s self-titled album released in 2009, however their debut seems to be where the creative seeds flourished.

Despite it only being their first record, Isaac Slade on vocals and piano, Dave Welsh on lead guitar, Joe King on rhythm guitar and Ben Wysocki on drums impeccably interweave their talents to result in some stunning tracks. In particular, closing track Trust Me builds up to a stunning crescendo with a heart-breaking chorus “We’re only taking turns holding this world” and the closing words of the song, and the album, “When you’re older you might understand”. It’s moments like this which make the record so long-lasting and one which will truly stick with me for the rest of my life.

Written by: Amrit Virdi

Edited by: Gemma Cockrell

In-article image courtesy of The Fray via Facebook.