red lights

Fab Five still on fire

The Strokes

The Strokes - Room On Fire
(RCA Records)
4 (out of 5 stars)

Reviewed: Nov. 10, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

With expectations running sky high after their stellar 2001 debut album Is This It, New York rockers The Strokes have not only met the demand with their sophomore effort Room On Fire, but in some ways even exceeded them. That's, in part, because there were many who felt that this quintet of scruffy young lads were little more than a fluke; a one trick pony, if you will.
But Room On Fire should quiet any doubters, as vocalist Julian Casablancas, guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr, bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fab Moretti have done it again with a short, energetic collection of cooly constructed rock numbers that don't search for a new stomping ground as much as they adhere to the tight, concise sounds that shoved it's listeners from a speeding car and back in time onto the streets of the Bowery in the late '70s.
For those familiar with the band's sound, the formula here is well-known - Casablancas' cool-as-a-cucumber muffled vocal delivery that, at times, sounds as if he's singing into a feedbag full of jello, urgent and to-the-point morse code guitar lines and a rickety rhythm section that's damn near impossible not to get caught in its jerky sway. And just like it's predecessor, every song here - in all of their blistering, short glory - are addictive hook-filled compositions, that once crawled inside of, are hard to escape.
Staying true to the sound that made them rock's new poster boys on songs such as "Reptilia," "Automatic Stop" and "Meet Me In The Bathroom," the Fab Five actually step slightly outside of their home turf on their first single from the album "12:51," which features a synth sounding guitar line very reminiscent of The Cars, while they add a sincere sense of soul to the delicious track "Under Control." Although no synthesizers or drum machines were used for this recording they successfully emulate them with conventional instruments on "The Way It Is," which again features a synth-like guitar weaving in and out of Moretti's hammering beats that sound as if he's working on a fish cannery production line.
"Give me some time. I just need a little time," Casablancas growls on "You Talk Way Too Much," but with a great second effort from one of rock's most promising acts, time is already on The Strokes side.

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