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Room on Fire is the second album by New York band, The Strokes. Following on from the massive critical acclaim for their first album (Is This It) there was intense media hype in the months leading up to its release. In Britain this was largely fuelled by the NME, a weekly music paper, which had many articles, previews and front covers about The Strokes last year.

From a personal point of view, I loved the album upon hearing it for the first time. An opinion that undoubtedly had something to do with my intense need for new Strokes songs after hyping myself silly while reading about it in the NME. Now that I've had a chance to (over)play the record I can say that it falls slightly short of the standard set by Is This It. That is not to say it is a bad album, as it has some cracking songs, it's just that I prefer the first.

Standout tracks for me are the two singles released so far (12:51 and Reptilia) and What Ever Happened?. The rest of the CD maintains the high standard, with the exception of Automatic Stop, which is the only bad song I've heard from the Strokes. However, there is nothing to match the inspired genius of the best tracks on the first album (Last Night, Hard to Explain and Soma).

It would always be heard to follow one of the best ever debuts and Room on Fire does not do well from a comparison to its predecessor. The decision to ditch Nigel Godrich (Radiohead's producer) and return to their original producer Gordon Raphael halfway through recording has left the songs with the same distinctive Strokes sound that will please fans of their previous work. However, the infamous perfectionism of lead singer Julian Casablancas seems to have resulted in everything sounding just slightly over-produced when compared to the rough and ready feel of Is This It. It will be interesting to see if the Godrich-produced songs ever surface on bootlegs or a rarities album in the future.

It is encouraging to see the band trying something new with Under Control (a slow song for the first time!) and some new influences and ideas will be needed if they are to avoid the media backlash awaiting them on their third album. Consistently doing the same thing with more production does not sit well with the music press (c.f. Oasis for a band that followed a similar creative path to that which the Strokes appear to be following). There's only so far you can go by having cool influences, cool clothes and cool celebrity girlfriends.


Track Listing

  1. What Ever Happened?
  2. Reptilia
  3. Automatic Stop
  4. 12:51
  5. You Talk Way Too Much
  6. Between Love & Hate
  7. Meet Me in the Bathroom
  8. Under Control
  9. The End Has No End
  10. The Way It Is
  11. I Can't Win

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