The Strokes 'Is This It' was an impact album, barely half an hour of classic New York rock & roll so spontaneous, raw and damn right catchy that it seemed to effect anyone willing to take the time to listen to it - a way for us to transport ourselves to Greenwich Village and really feel like Tom Verlaine. It was it's rough and ready feel that made it so dynamic so the thought of it's follow up brings a slight tremble - will we get an overproduced slick reinterpretation of New York's classic sound? - I mean look at what Guns N Roses did to themselves after 'Appetite for Destruction'.
Thankfully 'Room On Fire' is full of the same great songwriting as 'This Is It', and even though the production is better and the group more musical they have lost none of their impact. Check "Reptilia", beginning with a distinctively pulsing bassline before singer Julian Casablancas screams the words "You're no longer laughing, I'm not drowning fast enough". Elsewhere Nick Valensi's jangling guitar and a typically solid Strokes groove make "Automatic Stop" one of the albums highlights while the sleazy grunge of "You Talk Way Too Much" is sure to be live centrepiece, sounding like Magazine filtered through the mind of Kurt Cobain. Things are more fun on the lead single "12:51" and "Between Love & Hate", which sounds like the Strokes doing the Psychedelic Furs.
With a running time of just over half an hour 'Room On Fire' sounds fresh throughout, packing plenty of sonic punch, there is simply no time for filler and it's hard to pick any stand out cuts when the majority of songs are excellent. In fact we can be thankful to the gods of rock that this is one band determined to do what it does best - gritty and grimy rock & roll that few can touch. Recommended.