Room on Fire
The Strokes are never as loud as you remember them being. There’s no screaming, no wall of distorted guitars. The songs aren’t even fast, really. What you remember is their power, but it gets confused with memories of speed and stomp boxes and the other tools lesser bands use to ape power. The Strokes are watchmakers, adept at working with the delicate instruments of slippery guitar lines, hummable bass parts, and deceptive vocal melodies that lithely bound across chord changes. The power they possess is the abstract power of the craftsman. Sure, this second album may sound a heck of a lot like the first, but it is a handmade gem. Less exciting but more mature and creative than its predecessor, Room on Fire is the sound of men honing their craft. The last lines on the album have singer Julian Casablancas foreseeing would-be critics (“Good try, we don’t like it”) and then tossing a brag back over his shoulder (“Hold on, I’ll be right back”) in a summation of a promise: The Strokes will be back. Watch yourselves.