The Strokes
Room on Fire
/rca; 2003/




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First hype giveth then it taketh away.

I'm a few inches away from a long and very profitable model career. Life is tough. The Strokes come back with Room on Fire, a clever album bound to disappoint most of the hipsters' crew. I'm not going to talk about hipsters and hype this time, i'm not really feeling up to it. The album starts with this surprisingly obtuous line: i want to be forgotten/ i don't want to be reminded, an introductory statement reminiscent of Nirvana's teenage angst has paid off well/ now i'm bored and old, but, obviously, the level of anger and self-hatred is not the same. I'm not really convinced but I appreciate the attempt. 

Obviously the NME's sept. 2001 "best rock band in the world"'s second album could not live up to the expectations. But then, what did we expect and could these expectations really be achieved? Is This It came with a perfect timing and hit everybody with a fresh wave of charismatic power pop. It was good because it was fresh. Most of the songs on Room on Fire show evolution in songwriting and structure and only a few of them end up sounding like carbon copies of Is This It material. Highlights are the nervous Reptilia, the laid back Automatic Stop and Under Control and I Can't Win, a pretty nice closer. It lacks the poisonous emergency of tracks such as Trying Your Luck or Take It or Leave It, but adds a funny high-on-weed atmosphere here and there. 12:51 and The End Has No End's guitar-mimicking-casio gimmick is clever and fun. 

What else can i say? Even though Room on Fire is, very objectively, a very good pop record, clearly above the average and better than what you think it is, it can't really compare with the Exploding Hearts' incredible Guitar Romantic. Maybe the van accident that killed three of the four Hearts had something to do with freelance CIA agents, Julian Casablancas and a plan to make sure that Guitar Romantic was their last album. 

Christmas is coming, you can get the Exploding Hearts' album on every mailorder on the planet, and even though it will take a bit of patience i swear you won't regret it. 

-Barbara H

/dec 1st 2003/