Room On Fire: 18 years later


Luka Alexenko

The Strokes sophomore album Room On Fire turns 18 this year.

It was 2003 and the eyes of the world were on The Strokes. Dubbed the saviors of rock following their smash 2001 debut album Is This It, The Stokes once again returned to the studio to figure out where do you go once you reach the top?

Room on Fire, sonically, feels very much like a natural progression of their sound from the first album. Their combination of New York City cool and raw bravado is still present on the album. After all, in 2003 The Strokes were still: young, popular, attractive, and at the top of their game. Though, where Is This It feels bombastic and aloof; Room on Fire feels darker and introspective. It’s a look into what it means to be young in the emotional sense, to be arrogant, to not care, yet to be oh so very vulnerable. 

As the years go by, it becomes clear that no one can sing quite like Julian Casablancas. His voice is incredibly dynamic: a sensitive singing on “You Talk Way Too Much”, a molasses-like croon on “Under Control,” or a rocker-boy growl on “The End Has No End.” That chorus never fails to get me hyped.

The guitar work is as impeccable as ever and just as versatile as the vocals, flowing flawlessly between the mellow chords of “Under Control” and the pure power of the star track “Reptilia” while still maintaining that signature Strokes style. Guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Junior build off of each other and manage to add even more swagger to Casablancas’ voice. 

The Drums and Bass work is in my opinion on par if not better than their first album. They’re much more technical but still retain that raw energy that made the Is This It so fun to listen to. 

Room on Fire doesn’t age like a fine wine, it’s an album that doesn’t age at all. It doesn’t feel stuck in the past; despite being old enough to vote. That timelessness is a testament to their songwriting and I can not recommend this album or this band enough.