Review of Room On Fire Album by The Strokes

The Strokes - Room On Fire
The Strokes - Room On Fire - Album Review

The Strokes

Room On Fire

The Strokes: Prodigious sons of the new wave, creators of one of the definitive albums of the new millennium, and therefore the subject of much hype and consideration. It was supposed to be created alongside Nigel Godrich, the legendary producer who brought Radiohead into focus, but they ditched him at the last minute – apparently it just “wasn’t meant to be”. So they went back to the studio with Gordon Raphael – the producer of their debut – and various snippets of news came forth about the forthcoming album, even including one about Damon Albarn recording backing vocals. The weeks flew by, and then it arrived… so … They’ve knocked out a second album relatively quickly, but what is it?

The Strokes - Room On Fire - Album Review

Basically, the production is very similar – that they ditched Godrich might not have been the best idea, as he would have no doubt canned the distorted vocals, tinny guitars and the other trademarks of the first album, and in doing so created an album that doesn’t sound like an album of off-cuts from the first – As this one does. Maybe they’re just not trying to pretend that they’re doing anything different – if they didn’t think they were capable of creating a legitimate new sound, its fair enough, but you just can’t help but feel a little disappointed. There are a few fresh ideas littered throughout the album in attempt to make sure that the whole thing doesn’t sound too stale, but it does seem a bit unfortunate that there are no real standout tracks either, as in the electrifying singles from ‘Is This It’. It’s really just a couple of chunks here and there that offer the most – there’s a nice mood on ‘Automatic Stop’ alongside the lead single ‘12:51’ – making up the middle ‘chunk’, and whilst partsof ‘You Talk Way Too Much’ and ‘Between Love and Hate’ are okay, nothing much really happens until the last few tracks, kicked off with the choppy ‘The Way It Is’.

Casablacas’ passionate-yet-slack vocals, set alongside the repetitive guitar lines, just don’t have the same impact second time around - the vocals are starting to sound whiny, and the guitars are just sounding unimaginative. So apologies to those who love the thought of one musical idea, repeated until people ‘get it’, but lets be honest: it really doesn’t leave much for secondary listening. The business might owe them quite a lot for ushering in the new wave of cool rock bands, but unfortunately they’ve just shot themselves in the foot by not attempting anything new. I’ll pose it as a question - What would you really expect from a truly ‘cool’ band: a) completely changing their style, thus ditching their hoards of fans so that it takes everyone six months to catch up with whatever they’re going on about, or b) continue doing the same thing? People might have complained at Radiohead for going a bit wacky after OK Computer, but if the alternative is just to end up at the arse end of interesting, the choice really isn’t too tough.


Mark Danson