The Strokes – Room on Fire

The StrokesRoom on Fire (RCA)

Seriously, what was everyone expecting from The Strokes?

From all of the backlash and disinterest about the group’s second album, Room on Fire, it seems as if people had high expectations. Did you want an exploration into drum’n’bass? How about some grandiose symphonic statement?

The fact is, on Is This It, Julian and Co. painted themselves into a bit of a corner. It’s tough to evolve a formula like that and come away successful. What The Strokes did was ignore over-thinking their sophomore release and focus on fleshing out the sonic characteristics of their first. Which we should feel lucky for, by the way, because Room on Fire is the most pleasantly surprising album of the year.

The biggest change to be found on Room on Fire is how much guitarists Albert Hammond and Nick Valensi have grown. They’ve honed their skills and are trying on a few new sounds—take for example tracks like “12:51” and “The End Has No End,” where the lead guitar actually sounds like a synth fresh out of the eighties. While the guitars still follow a direct line from Is This It, they’re tinkered with enough and feature more depth now. The bad news is that Valensi and Hammond are the only ones that have seemingly sought out to improve their playing. Julian Casablancas hasn’t bothered to broaden his range; the vocals, lyrics, and songwriting haven’t gotten noticeably better. Luckily, the songwriting was already strong to begin with and Casablancas’ vocals, while not a great example of how to sing, compliment the music well.

Highlights include “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” “Automatic Stop” and “Between Love and Hate,” but the best song on Room on Fire, and actually the best song The Strokes have ever written is “Under Control,” which finds the boys trying on their 50s hat and sees Julian crooning: “You are young, darling / for now but not for long.” It’s a gorgeous song, rivaling “Someday” in the pure strength that it carries.

So it seems, if we’re speaking retrospectively, that The Strokes are emerging from the 1970s garage-punk revival that made them so popular to begin with and are starting to carry a shade of the 80s as well. It may not change the world, and it may not be as good as Is This It. There is bound to be a split in opinion over Room on Fire between those who were expecting The Greatest Album of All Time and those who were expecting The Strokes to be a flash in the pan. Well, they’ve emerged in the middle. But The Strokes have never been ones to care about such things, that’s shown in the music. Love ’em or hate ’em, you’ve got to respect that kind of nonchalance. Maybe all the hype over The Strokes was overdone after all, but with songs like this, who cares?

9 thoughts on “The Strokes – Room on Fire”

  1. just a quality pop album. great tunes that make their point and finish while you are still enjoying them. just a good, fun album. which is what we all like.


  2. Right on, joe.

    I haven’t been able to get the second track out of my head for the past two weeks, it’s definitely my favourite off Room on Fire. If the Strokes keep doing albums like this and Is this it?, I’m happy. Don’t need much more than that.

    Vote Nikolai for Prez! lol

  3. great fuckin album. i love the first track, What Ever Happened?, it really kicks the album off in an amazing way. just great music from a cool group of new yorkers.

  4. I read all over the place that it sucked, so I too was surprised when it didn’t. Its just another example, of how rock critics are fucking douchebags!

  5. I believe as a band the Strokes definitely have alot of growing to do musically, and lyrically. They are still growing in their sound and ability, they have talent, but they still need to work on skill. This growth can not be obtain merely over night, but with a willingness and an honesty understand what they have achived musically vs. what they have not achieved musically. Of course only the Strokes can, and will know what it is they are truly after; only they can decide. With this said, I absolutely love their music. It is simple, humorous, naked, closed, open, complex, confusing and logical much like man. Their melodies are not melodies but noise that is every day life, and their lyrics by some maybe too simple and on the verge of stupidness, but dammit the same can be said for life and the choices people make. In the end the Strokes are more like “we, the everyday people” than some of us may care to admit. They have a gift of the “normal” everyday mixed with the not so “normal” everyday, which is in essence their beauty. They will I hope triumphed through their own “noise”.

  6. I have to say, I was surprised, too. As a working musician, I can understand how positive or negative press can affect one’s outlook on the music created. That The Strokes kept on doing what they do best on “Room On Fire”, without trying to change their sound or overproduce the songs, solidified my respect for them. It’s probably the best driving around album I’ve heard in a long time, and I like it more with each listen.

    Another thing…I like the fact that they aren’t the best technical musicians in the world. It’s this that gives them their signature sound, I think, since each of them fills in a different part–simply, nicely….not a lot of overlapping and confusion. Just tasty sonic goodness as a whole.

  7. They did grow a lot since their last album, but can still grow a little more. However, this album was real great. They lyrics were touching, the music was great…they’re just an all around good band.

  8. obviously a band that is going to exceed our expectations for years to come. i hope i am alive september 12, 2027, when the strokes are inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame.

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