Resistance Is Futile

Never mind the backlash: Love the Strokes. They're cuter, richer, and more drunk than you.

One critic has astutely noted that "12:51" takes place "fifty-two minutes after Blondie's '11:59.'" But really it's the space between, the magic hour that begins at the moment you become the shit-hottest band on earth and ends the moment you realize it can't last forever. You're always running out of time on Room on Fire--or into it--watching those good looks fade in the mirror. "I wanna be forgotten and I don't wanna be reminded," Julian sings preemptively on the album's opener against still-of-the-night microriffs. One song later he's telling us "The night's not over." Another tune hangs on the line "It's only the end," before snapping into PR mode, "You're not supposed to say that."

This is the music's pathos, but pathos requires identification between fan and band and that just doesn't happen with the Strokes (see above). This isn't Crooked Rain nor is it In Utero, and not just because the culture wars that these records came out of are over but because the thing with the Strokes is that you care so they don't have to, not the other way around as it was with Pavement or Nirvana. The genius of the Strokes is that all they have to do is put out something more engaging than the Libertines or whoever to maintain their role as kings of Mount Nothing Really Matters. Maybe the above lyrics are just tropes--you gotta have something to say in a song, and 'I probably ought to look into getting a Stairmaster' is easier than trying to figure out what to say about Iraq or some shit (one song does mumble something about 'the secrets of the government,' though I'm assuming this is a reference to the tax code).

Contemplating Room on Fire, Julian lit his cigarette, then went upstairs to burn the house down: The Strokes
Big Hassle
Contemplating Room on Fire, Julian lit his cigarette, then went upstairs to burn the house down: The Strokes

Besides, lyrics have little to do with their lyricism. Room on Fire sounds like a Strokes record. The Candy-O kick of new wave hot sauce; the worst days of reggae and the first days of disco; the metal part that locks into the indie-rock part that leads into the sunset solo; the distant plastic letters to your Coney Island baby and all the nillas in the million-dollar villas; you slip into something out of something else. This is the golden age. We lost the war but we won the retreat. Pour out a forty, pass the Courvoisier.

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