Room on Fire, on the other hand, feels serious. Orchestrating a wider palette of musical ideas into their angular post-punk, the Strokes trade some crackle and pop for texture. The synths and reggae stuff really works, and there's an earnest beauty in the Zeppelinesque "Under Control." Similarly, the bombast is spooned out in more measured doses, but it's more than made up for by Nick Valensi's ingenious guitar work; he owns this record.
But in the brilliance of its arrangements, Room on Fire improves on -- and simultaneously mirrors -- Is This It: With time-signature shifts, counter-punching beats and hooks, and interlaced melodic phrases, the Strokes still sound like a band racing to keep up with itself. Which may be why every other band on the planet has spent the last two years eating its dust.