The Fray grew to be one of the most successful piano-pop acts of the post-Coldplay era thanks to the undeniable catchiness and emotional resonance of songs like “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and “How to Save a Life.” However, on their new song “Love Don’t Die,” the first single off their upcoming 2014 release Helios, there are no traces of piano to be found on the record whatsoever. And you know what? We love it.
“Love Don’t Die” starts off with bluesy, swampy guitar lick courtesy of VH1 pal Joe King that kind of reminds us a bit of Chris Issak’s “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing.” It’s irresistible in its simplicity, and lead singer Isaac Slade adds a bit of a growl to his vocals to match the mood of the riff. The video, directed by Nathan Cox, is also more aggressive than what we’re used to seeing from The Fray, and scores major points from pop culture junkies like ourselves for referencing the late ’80s Patrick Swayze action masterpiece Road House.
In that film, the house band (led by the late, great Jeff Healey) performed for a room of drunken bar brawlers from behind the safety of a chicken wire fence. The Fray take the same tact here, getting saved from being drilled by projectile beer bottles hurled by angry bikers by this makeshift fencing. It’s an interesting metaphorical statement for a band like The Fray to make in that they’re actively acknowledging that they are trying something new here, and they’re aware of the potential that their core audience might not like it. If you drill into the subtext a bit, you could argue that The Fray are trying to avoid the proverbial beer bottles being thrown at their heads by fans who might be upset that this song isn’t another carbon copy of “Cable Car.”
Well, Fray fans, don’t fret — it’s not as if “Love Don’t Die” veers totally off into muddy waters (pun intended). Quite the opposite, in fact; the song’s chorus features some very Fray-ian harmonizing and even some gorgeous bells. It would be concerning if the band did a 180 with their musical direction and the end product didn’t work, but with “Love Don’t Die,” we can assuredly say that their new choices fit well with the band’s strengths. In fact, knowing that the band is roughing things up a bit makes us that much more excited to hear Helios in full when it drops in January.