The Strokes

Room on Fire

This sophomore disc from rock music’s great pale hope, New York City’s trust-fund layabout division, contains 11 concise pop songs framed with a deliberately crappy mix that sounds like an old Shel Talmy Kinks production done on vintage 1960s Radio Shack gear. Julian Casablancas’ drunkenly passionate vocals sound like he phoned them in; the rest of the band’s crisp architecture—starting with the lockstep guitar figures that drive the Chic-snappy rhythm section over which Albert Hammond Jr.’s fuzzed out, knife-in-the-speaker guitar lines soar—has that cheap-cassette demo feel. The songs, however—“You Talk Way Too Much,” “Meet Me in the Bathroom” and “What Ever Happened?”—are infectiously engaging in a Talking Heads: 77 sort of way. Are the Strokes the saviors of rock? Nah. Still, I wouldn’t mind hearing a competent remix of this.