Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Weezer's "El Scorcho," Ronnie & The Daytona's "Little G.T.O.", and Tender Box's "Spectacular Spider-man Theme."
Is this title referring to something more clever than I am? It's a kind of mirror image of itself, in calculator font anyway. Is that mirror image quality supposed to tie into why the band wants to go out and get forties (f*** goin' to that party), but then changes their mind so quickly?
I have a tendency to like the sequels to successful, groundbreaking things more than the original. It's not a hard and fast rule in all regards (the first Godfather still gets a bump up in my book over its sequel), but as I've been recently regarding my music collection, I realized I've been listening to the sophomore albums much more than the big breakthrough albums.
I'm treading a bit lightly here, because I realize I'm coming dangerously close to becoming one of those guys who goes out of his way to explain how his taste is more refined than everyone else. They don't listen to Interpol's debut Turn on the Bright Lights. They listen to Antics as though this proves how much cooler they are because they stuck with their band after the 5-star album to the "under-appreciated" 4-star album. I'm trying really hard not to be that person, but at the same time I suppose I am that person. I actually do enjoy Antics more than Bright Lights (it's mostly because "Evil" and potential G.S.A.T.M. "Length of Love" are so flippin' good), and even though I really liked Is This It, the Strokes really made me a fan with Room on Fire. On the prior, the post "Last Night" tracks always felt a little flat to me, or at least out of character with the preceding seven. Room on Fire felt more in line with those last four "off" songs, but perhaps because it was a full consistent album of that style, I enjoyed it more.
"12:51" typifies the album's laid-back intensity. There isn't all out assault in this music. It's just growing forward momentum. Everything seems set to lo-fi, but not in a sleepy way. This tune feels a little more electric, with the keyboard and the near-drum-machine-ness of the drums, and perhaps that put people off the band. Maybe they were hoping for even more garage rock like the first album, but it's still there. Room on Fire is not an album of growth. It's more of the same, perhaps not different enough for some.
A quick story: way back when, I was working at the record store with my friend Tony (a character so important to my musical growth that he will surely appear again in future columns, if he hasn't already). We were throwing a couple copies of the second album from The Spin Doctors--Turn It Upside Down--into the reduced bin when Tony admitted he bought it when it first came out. And he was sober when he did it. The astonishment I felt at that moment would only be trumped when he went on to explain that he not only bought it, but he enjoyed it. "I don't get why people were so upset with it. It sounds EXACTLY like "Pocket Full of Kryptonite", and that thing sold a shit ton."
I think of this story whenever I hear about the sophomore slump, and maybe in the back of my mind, I have a warm spot for the Room On Fires of the world, as well as the Insomniacs, the You Could Have It So Much Betters and, yes, even the Fairweather Johnsons. Maybe the contrarian inside of my body looks for the chance to zig when the popular opinion zags, so maybe instead of distancing myself from the snobs of the world, I'm just proving the obvious. Either way, I love "12:51." Hand claps, growling guitar, mild swearing, crescendos. It should've sold a shit ton.
Or view the Official Video for "12:51"