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'Room on Fire,' The Strokes 

There's something so hate-able about the Strokes. For one, they were practically an overnight success with their release of the 2001 Is This It? They also all have annoying cool names like Fab, Nikolai and Casablancas. Arggh...

Aside from all that, the quintet seems to have mastered the art of garage rock. Sure, they may sound like a band that ditched sixth period to play their big brothers' guitars and beat on metal garbage cans -- but don't tell me that they were doing it in a garage. Seeing as they are all prep school boys from the Upper East Side, they were more likely to have been rehearsing in a swanky penthouse or a Village brownstone. Grrr...

The band's socioeconomic status is annoyingly unimportant in the grand scheme of things -- at least they've never claimed that they rose from rags to riches. All in all, the Strokes are a hard-and-fast-rock, no-B.S. rock 'n' roll band.

After critics ate up the band's 2001 debut, the five unkempt Manhattan kids were painted as musical geniuses. So the stakes were high for their next record. With 2003's Room On Fire, the Strokes proved that they are no one-album wonders.

The new record rollicks off to a start with "What Ever Happened?"-- it's clear from the get-go that singer Julian Casablancas hasn't lost any of the phlegm that made his voice so delightfully guttural on the first album. The band rocks straight into "Reptilia," a song that has clear flaws, but that makes up for itself when Casablancas lets out a few of his trademark cries. Room on Fire rambles on with more of the Strokes' trademarks: clapping, repetitive guitar riffs and one unconventional radio hit ("12:51"). Drummer Fab Moretti takes more artistic license on this album, setting great beats on songs like "Between Love and Hate" and the synthesized "The Way It Is." Across the album, Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond's guitars come through Nikolai Fraiture's bass gorgeously, giving the album the Ramones feel that the Strokes were probably looking for.

On the whole, Room on Fire is a solid record. The five Strokes may be prep school kids from Manhattan, but they can play a song that just about any rocker can jam to, with lyrics that could have come out of any garage in the country.

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