Room on Fire
our Stylus girl here never really got The Strokes. Don’t know if it was the been there, done that re-tread sound, the rich white boys slumming it bullshit or the fact that the guy who gave me the album suggested I take his gift horse in my mouth as a thank you (request denied). But they were hailed in a wash of glory as the next big thing so I hopped onboard the hype train. And yeah, Is This It? is fun, dirty and dripping with enough cool to keep a tub of ice cream solid for years. The Strokes worked the muso world into a lather worthy of whatever got them all jacked up next.
So here we all are, two years later, all a tingle with anticipation at what should be a triumphant return to an upper echelon rock. But after our patience, our gratitude, and our devotion, these smart-mouthed numbers give us Room On Fire. Are you kidding? All that groupie pussy has clearly gone to their heads since after 2 fucking years they give us 33 minutes and 34 seconds of the SAME album! This isn’t Room On Fire; it’s Bride of Is This It. Wait … that isn’t fair. It’s actually a step backward from the first one. At least the first one was first. All new and sexified with a sound that we recognized but didn’t mind cause it came in such beautiful wrapping, and we’d been waiting so long for it. But now, it’s that guy who at first seems totally amazing until you get to know him and realize that beneath the fabulous front, there’s nothing new to behold.
Julian Casablancas continues to carve out a career as a professional Lou Reed imitator, Albert Hammond Jr’s guitar is still glued to his chest and Fabrizio Moretti can’t find a fill to save his life (but if you were banging Drew Barrymore – a honey hot enough to make a girl bat for her own team – you wouldn’t be looking for one either). But occasionally the tunes do overtake the ‘tude. “12:51” is the strongest by miles. And surprise! It’s the single! It’s humming buzz nails it in one. And c’mon! Who doesn’t love handclaps? Elsewhere superfuzz, echo and distortion all add up to a big well all right on “The End Has No End”. Finally, closer “I Can’t Win” bangs out its strummy best with a 4/4 tightness to make you bop your head despite yourself, and jeez Louise, its even got a solo and a bridge! Too bad their song structure dragon is only finally released on the last track.
The Strokes detected a flaw in the music industry matrix, and neatly slipped one in where something had been missing. Now that flaw has not only been mended, it’s choking with bands that do the retro shuck-n-jive. And none of these hucksters do it anywhere near as well as the bands that did it first time. So do yourself (and everyone who might want to take your gift horse in their mouths) a favor and get Marquee Moon by Television and the eponymous Velvet Underground album out instead. Those beauties go down much smoother and tastier, and don’t leave you gagging on yesterday’s hype.
Reviewed by: Lisa Oliver
Reviewed on: 2003-10-28