A Look Back At: The Strokes – Room on Fire

A stroke of genius.

©RCA Records

The Strokes. One of New York’s finest offerings since pizza, Lou Reed and The Godfather trilogy.

The album I’m going to be writing about today is their 2003 sophomore effort ‘Room on Fire’, which is my personal favourite album. This will be the first entry in Soundwash’s ‘A Look Back At’ series.

The album kicks off with the song ‘What Ever Happened?’, a pensive track which really sets the overall mood of the album. ‘What Ever Happened?’ talks about multiple topics. The lyrics start with what seem to be a break-up situation, evidenced by the opening lyrics: “I wanna be forgotten/and I don’t wanna be reminded/You say ‘please don’t make this harder’”. As the song progresses, it’s hard not to think that some of the following lyrics are talking about being in a band as hyped-up as the Strokes were following their 2001 debut masterpiece ‘Is This It?’. The lyrics: “Oh dear, is it really all true?/did they offend us and they want it to sound new?” would certainly evidence this theory. The song also references American playwright Tennessee Williams with the lyrics: “Oh Tennessee, what did you write?”. The song ends in the same melancholic fashion it began, repeating the opening lyrics.

The second song on this album, ‘Reptilia’, is perhaps the Strokes’ most well known song. Serving as the second single from the album, ‘Reptilia’ has found its way into pop culture; having been featured in video games ‘Guitar Hero 3’ and ‘Rock Band’, and featured in the honourable mentions list in WatchMojo’s ‘Top 10 Guitar Riffs of the 2000’s‘ video. The song kicks off with a simple drum and bass groove before exploding into a fully instrument-based intro. One guitar plays an infectiously catchy riff whilst the other guitar backs that riff with a fitting B minor to E major chord progression. The lyrics again tell a story about a man and a woman. However, in contrast to the opening track,  I personally like to believe that this song is about a man venting his frustrations to a woman he is involved with. This could be evidenced by lyrics such as “yeah, the night’s not over/you’re not trying hard enough/our lives are changing lanes/you ran me off the road”, “I said please don’t slow me down/if I’m going too fast” and “the wait is over/I’m taking over”. The track also features a blistering guitar solo and a beautiful sounding harmonised chorus.

The fourth song on this album is the lead single, ’12:51’. ’12:51′ is notable for its extremely unique sounding guitar, which Nick Valensi used to give the song a synthesiser-like sound. The lyrics are about, according to Julian himself, the moment right before having sex with a girl for the first time. “We could go and get 40’s/fuck going to that party/oh really your folks are away now?/alright, let’s go, you’ve convinced me” are lyrics that really make this obvious.

Other personal high points include songs like ‘Between Love & Hate’, ‘The End Has No End’ and ‘Meet Me In the Bathroom’.

What did you think of this album? Let us know.

Author: R.A. Hagan

21-year-old thing doer

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