The Strokes

Make 'Room'

StrokesIn what is one of the most anticipated albums of the year, the Strokes return this week with their sophomore RCA salvo, "Room on Fire." First single "12:51" is off to a good start, having debuted at a career-best No. 7 on the U.K. singles chart and resting at No. 20 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.

To be sure, the new album showcases a band frontman Julian Casablancas insists is "always consciously trying to move away from anything we've done." While rip-roaring rockers like "Meet Me in the Bathroom," "Reptilia" and "I Can't Win" show clear growth from their predecessors on 2001's "Is This It," the slower, sexy "Under Control" and "Between Love & Hate" find the Strokes in uncharted territory.

Guitarist Nick Valensi proudly says the former is "really the first Strokes song that is mellow, where you could sit back and get stoned, as opposed to jumping around the room. All the songs on our first record were all really tight and rushed."

The band also paid more attention to perfecting tones and effects, as evidenced by the prominent keyboard-mimicking guitars on "12:51" and "The End Has No End," and the heavily processed drum sound on "The Way It Is." Of the latter, which sports astounding stickwork from Moretti, Casablancas says, "It does sound a little machine-like, but it's actually him playing." Adds Valensi, "The rhythms on the album are overwhelming in a good way."

The group is on tour in North America through Nov. 9 in Atlanta, after which it will head to Europe and then to Australia and New Zealand after the first of the year.