Album Review: The Strokes – Room On Fire
Room On Fire is the second album by The Strokes. The title of the album is actually taken from one of the lyrics in the song Reptilia. In 2001, The Strokes burst onto the scene with their debut album, Is This It? It was the album that defined what The Strokes were all about and its impact on music will never be forgotten because of how slick and cool it was. The album became a saviour for modern day rock and roll. So would Room On Fire be able to create the same impact or would it just end up being a massive disaster that literally set a room on fire?
Room On Fire begins with What Ever Happened. The track resembles the same rhetorical question that The Strokes asked on their debut, Is This It? What Ever Happened is almost the answer to Is This It? because the band had bowled everyone over with their debut, so Room On Fire was a turning point as the band had to ask themselves where they were going to go now. Reptilia is one of the tracks that defines what The Strokes do at their very best. The track offers a polyphonic texture. The pre-chorus is where all instruments come together wonderfully with Valensi providing the octaves and Fraiture playing a quirky bass line that complements Valensi’s octaves wonderfully. Hammond Jr also provides a legato guitar riff which means that notes are played together smoothly. The pre-chorus and chorus can be described as having polyphonic textures as there are three contrasting melodies playing simultaneously. After the chorus the song goes back to having monophonic and homophonic textures, as part of the verse is sung with just Casablancas’ vocals and Valensi’s guitar riff (monophony) and then when the second guitar comes in with chords as well as the bass (homophony).
Automatic Stop leans towards reggae influences as there is a quick pick of chords. Hammond Jr provides a heavy progression of single notes and also a quirky riff in the chorus where Casablanca’s sings “Wait, I’m going to give it a break/I’m not your friend/I never was.” The song is based on relationships. Throughout Room On Fire, the song meanings are very ambiguous which could be partly due to Casablancas’ experiences with relationships. 12:51 is one of the tracks that show The Strokes have stepped it up and have thought outside the box since the days of Is This It? Valensi messed around with the controls on his amplifier which made him blow up a few amplifiers when trying to create the synthesiser sound on his guitar. The guitar riff in the verse is fantastic because it mimics what Casablancas’ is singing. 12:51 highlights The Strokes as creative musicians because of the way they incorporate electronica into Room On Fire; it shows a lovely contrast in genres from their predecessor.
Between Love & Hate begins with Moretti’s drum beat. As the song title suggests this is about Casablancas’ past relationships. Casablancas looks back on why one relationship never worked in lyrics “She’d be in the kitchen/I would start the fire/Those days are gone/PS if I may ask why.” In the chorus you are able to hear more reggae influences with the chord progressions. Meet Me In The Bathroom is one of the best tracks on this album, even though it has a pretty raunchy and controversial title! Fraiture’s bass line remains prominent and drives the song nicely. The song has a great chorus which is ridiculously catchy “Meet me in the bathroom/That’s what she said/I don’t mind it’s true.” Under Control highlights Julian Casablancas’ singing and brings out the soul genre on Room On Fire.
Room On Fire is an incredible and worthy sequel to their magnificent debut, Is This It? Room On Fire may have not been as strong as their debut because it provided a template on how rock music should be made. Is This It? set a benchmark in the 21st century for subsequent artists such as The Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Kings Of Leon. But the advantage that Room On Fire has over their debut is that they experiment a lot more by incorporating electronic aspects in their tracks while keeping their reggae influences intact. Room On Fire highlights that The Strokes had so much more to give after Is This It?