Before we continue, let us ponder some hard questions. What if the Strokes weren't The Strokes? What if they weren't that band from New York with the obnoxiously cool haircuts and the obnoxiously uncool tee shirts? What if there was no hype draped around their skinny necks? What if they were just another young band who dug the Velvet Underground and Plastic Ono Band? What if you could still tolerate their smug little faces?
Only after you've properly absorbed those what-ifs can you arrive at the most important question of all: Doesn't Room on Fire instantly sound better once you forget that it's by The Strokes? Yeah . . . yeah it does. The album no longer feels burdened by our prejudices, by our assertion that this band simply isn't worth all its buzz. It stops sounding like one big buzzkill.
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Since Room on Fire didn't quite light the world aflame like the group's overrated debut, perhaps the Strokes' talent will finally be judged correctly: up-and-coming, not the next big anything, some catchy tunes with obvious references and definite skill. Yeah, maybe. It's for their own good, really. There's a promising group somewhere in there -- no reason to kill it off by burying it in hyperbole.