The Strokes - Room On Fire

By liz

The Strokes - Room On Fire
Review by Michael F Gill.

Room on Fire?
ROOM on Fire?
Room on FIRE?

So the second Strokes album has come along, and while it is quite similiar to the first album, I can't help but notice my biggest problem with the first album hasn't been corrected : the god-awful, wafer-thin production. There is no backbone to the Strokes music, it simply just doesn't "rock out". It sounds like it is being played out of a rather treble-heavy AM radio. These guitars and drums sound soft and muddy when they should be in your fucking face. I'm not joking when I say Belle & Sebastian have more conviction and "oomph" in their recordings. I don't know how much of a difference the sound is when they play live (although I saw them open for Doves 2 years ago and I was bored silly), but geesh, even Britpop losers like Symposium, Shed 7, and Northern Uproar rock harder then the Strokes. This is a Room on FIRE????

So, even for a supposed garage rock band, they don't rock out, big deal. How is the music this time?

Well, they've definitely got a sound down. You can pretty much tell this is the Strokes by playing any track on the album. And if you love that sound from the first album, you'll definitely be eating this up. Likewise, the haters will just have more fuel for (actually) setting the room on fire. The differences between "Is this It" and "Room on Fire" are very fine, but they are there. It's like spotting the differences between albums by The Fall, Guided by Voices, and Stereolab. If you are going to call "Under Control" a Motown song, "12:51" a synth pop song, and "Between Love & Hate" a reggae song, you have another thing coming (namely, laughter from rastas, Blondie, and Berry Gordy's grave) but these songs do work as subtle diversions on the Strokes sound.

That said, I think the band are going to run up against a brick wall pretty soon if they don't start to get technically better at playing their instruments. There is only so much you can do with 8th notes, quarter notes, and a couple of sixteenths. Lord knows when I get sent to Hell the only song playing will be a guitar that goes "dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun" from now until eternity. Yes, when the Strokes are on, like on yer first 2 tracks "Reptilla" and "What ever Happened?", the songs are good enough to transcend these weaknesses, but they are still quite a few times on the album where I found myself thinking "ah, Strokes-by-Numbers".

One thing "Is This It" did have going for it was that the tunes were pretty catchy and upbeat, even if Julian Casablancas sounded like he was overemoting and apathetic at the same time. Well, no change on the Casablancas front for this album, but the songs are definitely slower this time around, and they don't seem to have as abundant a source of catchy hooks so far.

"Room on (Camp) Fire" will definitely cause hyberbole from the lovers and the haters (as already seen on the [Excellent] list), and it seems this elated sense of interest is the fatal element of the Strokes music. Perhaps if they weren't seen as "saviours of garage rock" and all that crap, but still had the prescence of say, The Mooney Suzuki, then they would make much more sense. But, alas, when you are hyped to death and put across as the leaders of a movement, such overcritiques and ridiculously in-depth reviews like this one are going to be made. And your music better stand up, no matter what the trend. The Strokes haven't convinced me yet, but there is enough on "Room on Fire" to show that they will be pleasing fans for a bunch of years. Let's just hope their not the next big thing.