Published Nov 01, 2003The Strokes are more than just a rock band, they're a vital rock band, or at least they were when Is This It invaded everybody's record collection two years ago. However, today the Strokes don't play esoteric post-punk in close-quartered clubs, they play their recognisable catalogue in godforsaken suburban arenas full of screaming teenage mallrats, hockey moms and beer-swilling sugar daddies. All of which says a lot about the addictive appeal of the Strokes' tunes, which have managed to transcend simple stylistic borrowing. At this moment their sound truly is their own an instantly recognisable melange of the annals of popular music played within the strict parameters of bass, drums, guitar and voice. The new material from Room On Fire arguably the most anticipated album since, ahem, Be Here Now has managed to reify their appreciation of, and ability to create, good pop music. "Reptilia" and "The Way It Is" seem set to replace "Last Night" and "Take It or Leave It" as live anthems, both driving just as hard as anything on Is This It. Opener "Under Control" melds Motown and soul into the most tender song in the band's arsenal. Everyone already knew the words to the accessible (and danceable) "12:51." Plus, Julian's finally ditched the meandering disaffection on stage in favour of actual interaction, offering insightful epigrams like "fuckin' eh!" and "thanks for the cigarettes, you guys really care." Some lucky/obsessive fan even ripped his shoe off. Hell, the band capped it all off with what might be its first ever encore, albeit a deflated version of "Is This It." Pity about the venue, though. If I may offer some advice to the residents of Mississauga, move, now!