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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Strokes have the clap

The new single “12:51” is the first song off of the Strokes’ much-anticipated sophomore album Room On Fire, due out October 28 on this side of the Atlantic, and a week late on account of packaging difficulties. Released more than two years after 2001’s landmark Is This It, the Strokes have become inseparable from the downtown-cool vibe that has since both infiltrated and been forced upon the contemporary music landscape. As a result record labels have been quick to churn out sound-alikes and raced to sign artists once considered fringe and esoteric.

Among those that have reaped the benefits are standouts like the White Stripes, Interpol, the Mooney Suzuki, and the Kings of Leon; as well as a slew of flash-in-the-pan acts (e.g. Rooney, the Caesars, and the Datsuns). The result is much like the post-1993 flood of grunge-esque musicians, and the lessons of that time must not be forgotten by the consumer: sometimes you get Pearl Jam, and sometimes you get Candlebox. Thus the anticipation surrounding this album is tremendous, the album has already received an unnecessary amount of ink (this writer is aware of the irony here) and will likely be held up as the be-all or end-all of the so-called Revival movement.

So, what’s it sound like? Only a select few know what form the finished project has taken. Surely one can expect the New-Wave vein that figured prominently into the success of the previous album to be intertwined with a reoccurring Velvet Underground sense of self-awareness.

The previously mentioned single can now be heard on radio stations across the nation. It seems the enigmatic guitar technique employed by Nick Valensi has confounded some disc jockeys, leading them to criticize the use of a keyboard on a rock ‘n’ roll song. The fact that this song has more layers over Julian Casablancas’ vocals than the headquarters of NORAD and lacks a discernable chorus adds to its appeal, and draws comparisons to their debut album’s title track.

While all remain true to the Strokes sound certain tracks reach out to embrace different influences, though most have changed names repeatedly during recording. Soon-to-be standards like “The Way It Is” and “You Talk Way Too Much” help to solidify this album’s rock designation. On one track in particular, formerly known as “Raga,” one can hear strong hints of reggae, whereas in “The End Has No End” one finds the title repeated to the point of meaninglessness. Think “Number Nine” by the Beatles, or the close of Nirvana’s tune “All Apologies.”

Widely circulated bootleg concert recordings of new songs vary quite a bit in speed and lyrics though, leaving much to the imagination as to their final sound. The debut of the filthy (and appropriately titled) “Meet Me in the Bathroom” in Boston last September certainly wowed the crowd, and has drawn much from the now-infamous “New York City Cops,” of which this new up-beat screamer is reminiscent. This seems to have started the new album fever that has afflicted the majority of devoted fans.

To hear more you should direct your browser to the official web site www.thestrokes.com where one can download “12:51” and view other interesting tidbits. For a tantalizing bit of things to come swing by www.yourheadsnotright.org, click on the October 2 link, and scroll down to hear “Under Control,” a ballad combining early Motown soul wrapped in the familiar fuzz of British garage rock from yesteryear, think Smokey Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears” as performed by Lou Reed, backed by the JAMC. Or, for those visually inclined, check the October 9 link to watch Roman Coppola’s home videos of the recording process. Be warned: some of this footage may reappear in the newest video, a Tron-inspired live rendition of “12:51.”

A more expensive option, strictly for those who must be the first on their respective blocks to own the new recording, is the United Kingdom branch of the popular Amazon.com (www.amazon.co.uk). There, Room On Fire can be preordered and shipped overnight to your doorstep by October 22. Unfortunately this will set you back a cool $36. As always you could just wait until your girlfriend buys it and burn it while she’s not looking…Lord knows most guys have done the same to get a copy of Justified.