Review: ‘The Strokes’

"Someday," "Last Nite," "The Modern Age" -- the big three from the Strokes' debut "Is This It" -- continue to stand out like instant classics as the New York rockers integrate material from the sophomore disc "Room on Fire," which RCA releases Tuesday, into their live show. Still disaffected and riding a wave of melodic hooks cherry picked from rock 'n' roll's finest art bands of the '60s and '70s, the Strokes find themselves milking a formula rather than expanding on it.

“Someday,” “Last Nite,” “The Modern Age” — the big three from the Strokes’ debut “Is This It” — continue to stand out like instant classics as the New York rockers integrate material from the sophomore disc “Room on Fire,” which RCA releases Tuesday, into their live show. Still disaffected and riding a wave of melodic hooks cherry picked from rock ‘n’ roll’s finest art bands of the ’60s and ’70s, the Strokes find themselves milking a formula rather than expanding on it.

The Strokes’ arrival in 2001 signaled a rock ‘n’ roll revival that has yet to fully flower. Second disc’s material shows them following form — blending the spikiness and droning of Television and Velvet Underground with Beach Boys tunefulness — though nothing in the concert had the distinguishing feature of the big three. It only takes a half-dozen tunes to get a clear picture of what the Strokes are all about; after about 18 tunes, the night had clearly faded into a repetitive haze. “The Modern Age,” given a particularly robust reading, was the evening’s standout.

Singer and songwriter Julian Casablancas, with aloofness and self-deprecation consistently on display, appeared to be struggling with a head cold and a drunken state though he never missed a cue. He has added a gruffness to his vocals, raising the level of exasperation being expressed. Of course, as the children of well-off Manhattanites, the Strokes thrive on Casablancas’ antipathy toward the world; their image and stage style continue to attempt to make indifference an art form.

That indifference, comely to a larger than expected crowd, will help sell enough albums to get the Strokes to the edge of stardom. It will take stronger songs, though, to push them over the top. Band returns home to play the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Strokes

Shrine Auditorium; 6,300 seats; $32.50

Production

Presented by Goldenvoice. Reviewed Oct. 23, 2003.

Cast

Band: Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Fabrizio Moretti, Nikolai Fraiture, Nick Valensi.
Also appearing: Kings of Leon, Regina Spektor.
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