The Strokes Room On Fire

[RCA; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: indie rock, garage punk
Others: The Stooges, Interpol

Drew Barrymore. Family Feud. Industry darlings. Nigel Godrich. Model looks. Denim. Hype. Spoiled. Beer bottles. Private school kids. Sophomore slumps. Jim Shearer. Some more hype. There's plenty of reasons to love or hate the Strokes. The band that seemed to appear everywhere you looked two years ago has returned with their follow-up album, Room On Fire.

When a band receives as much press, praise, play, and worship as the Strokes did, it's hard not to cough “sellout” or roll your eyes when they're seen associating with the extravagant side of the business. I'm sure there were many indie kids in tight-fitting jeans that threw a hissy-fit every time Julian, Fab, Nikolai, Albert, and Nick graced Rolling Stone or were featured on Entertainment Tonight. You didn't really expect such strapping young trust-fund children to stay low-key did you? 

Regardless of the Hollywood shenanigans that the Strokes participated in, they continued to play a number of shows and have now delivered to us another great album. Room on Fire isn't a huge progression from Is This It?, but it stands as a more polished version of the style that the Strokes have always employed. The broken mic vocals and furious down-strumming is still here. The pleasing melodies and New York hipster lyrics are still here as well. Julian's content has managed to stay concise and straightforward, the lyrics are nothing groundbreaking but can surely be appreciated within the context of the songs.

“What Ever Happened?” kicks off the album with a relatively unique song arrangement (by this band's standards anyway) and a topic that could either be about their fame or a doomed relationship. “Reptilia” is driven by a thumping bassline and the lead single, “12:51” includes an infectious handclap. “Between Love & Hate” showcases one example of the drum machine drumming the band has mentioned slaving over in the studio. “Meet Me in the Bathroom” is probably a true story, exemplifying why we hate this band in the first place. “Under Control” might be the best track on here. The band ventures out into soul territory with a rare mellowed-out song.

The album ends with a trio of songs that make it even more obvious that the Strokes have managed to crush our hopes for a sucky album. We were so ready to ridicule mercilessly. Maybe next time.

1. What Ever Happened?
2. Reptilia
3. Automatic Stop
4. 12:51
5. You Talk Way Too Much
6. Between Love & Hate
7. Meet Me in the Bathroom
8. Under Control
9. The End Has No End
10. The Way It Is
11. I Can't Win