The Strokes Room on Fire

Any fan of the Strokes would cringe if the band decided to add a cellist or knock out a double-disc concept album based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard. In this sense, their minions are probably better off getting what they expected. Thankfully, the Strokes stick to the streetwise pop approach on their sophomore effort, Room on Fire, most apparent on first single "12:51,” which manages to transform the Tokens’ "Lion Sleeps Tonight” into a dance floor magnet that stays with you like a tapeworm. Oddly, however, the best of the album lies in its more genre-melding moments, farthest removed from the band’s debut, Is This It. The soulful "Under Control” trades their characteristic angst for more delicate affections while futuro, blip-rocker "The End Has No End” gives a gamesome nod to Kurt Vonnegut (as do the liner notes). There are moments of uncertainty, though, which couldn’t honestly be said about Is This It (the title itself even lacks a question mark). The band kicks the tires throughout most of "Reptilia” and "Between Love and Hate” before arriving at relatively redemptive choruses. Therein lies the key to the Strokes adept pop artistry; they understand that one great note or a single well-placed line is capable of saving any three-minute pop song, no matter how far down the toilet it’s sunk. But when you’ve garnered a reputation as the "saviours of rock” you shouldn’t really need to salvage your tunes. (BMG)