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The Strokes – Room On Fire
By MaxPower

The Strokes had a lot to prove with “Room On Fire,” the follow up to their fairly successful debut album “Is This It.” Shortly after they started to make a name for themselves using a low-tech, lo-fi sound with droning guitars, many harsh criticisms rose up about the New York band. Many claimed that they were blatantly ripping off the Velvet Underground. Many also claimed that they were complete phonies, spoiled prep-school boys who only made it because of their families’ wealth. There were also cries of the Strokes being a one-trick pony, incapable of bringing any new ideas to the table. 

I was a Strokes supporter from the get-go, but not to the extent of most of their fan base. I thought they were a decent band with some fun songs. Anyone who claims them to be original obviously doesn’t know their rock history though, because the Strokes clearly borrow heavily from such 60’s and 70’s art-rock/early punk acts the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, and the Ramones. I never saw this as a huge deal though. I mean, how many bands out there can truly claim to be original? The Strokes are by no means original, but at least they were referencing some cool music and got some people interested in those bands again. Yes, the members of the band are from wealth families and attended prep school. But is this a reason to criticize their music? Absolutely not. Anybody hear of the Rolling Stones? 

The last and possibly most ominous crack at the Strokes was their apparent lack of versatility and inability to adapt and change styles. “Is This It” is a fun album, but diverse it is not. The songs are all in similar time with the same drum backbeat and droning guitars throughout the album. It gives the album a sense of continuity, but if the Strokes were capable of changing it up a little, they certainly didn’t display that in their debut album. This is why the follow up “Room On Fire” is so important for the future of this band. It gives them the chance to dispel these harsh criticisms brought against them and prove that they are more that a gimmick band. I have been curious to see what the Strokes would do with their sophomore album because that would prove their critics either right or wrong. So as I was saying earlier, the Strokes have a lot to prove... 

My friend got an early copy of “Room On Fire” and I listened to it with him today. It was a solid album, but I found myself disappointed. The Strokes did nothing to vary their already long-tired formula. Half the time it seemed as if they took the songs off of their first album, made a few changes, and re-released them as new material. They added a few synthesizers to a couple of songs, but other than that, nothing. The songs are interchangeable with their last album. 

It seems to me that the Strokes are most definitely facing “Counting Crows Syndrome,” They can make a decent solid album, but it is just, in essence, a rehash of their debut. “Room On Fire” is a consistent listen, but “consistent” just doesn’t cut it for a band that needed a dynamic change from their previous work. It isn’t that the quality of the songs is below their previous work, but they did nothing to out-step the limitations they made for themselves with their debut release. If the Strokes want to be anything more than a passing fad, they need to raise the bar for themselves and try some new ideas on their next release rather than relying on the same old tricks. 

My favorite song from the album is “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” which is actually an older song that they never recorded until recently. Unfortunately, they made some changes to this version which, in my opinion, makes it inferior to the version they used to play at their shows. This particular song is probably, along with “New York City Cops” and “Hard to Explain,” one of their best songs. If you were a big fan of the Strokes previous work, you will certainly enjoy this record, but if you are looking to check out the Strokes for the first time, I recommend “Is This It.” And if you haven’t checked out the Velvet Underground yet, what’s wrong with you? 

CD Info 

The Strokes – Room On Fire
Label: RCA
What Ever Happened?
Automatic Stop
You Talk Way Too Much
Between Love & Hate
Meet Me In The Bathroom
Under Control
End Has No End, The
Way It Is, The
I Can't Win
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Visit the official homepage for more info on this CD and the band.


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