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Going back to the well

Is there a second act? Or a third?

By Todd Leopold

Room on Fire
The Strokes' new album, "Room on Fire," is due Tuesday.

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"Eye on Entertainment" talks about the weekend's happenings on CNN's "Live Today" between 10 a.m. and noon ET Thursday.

(CNN) -- On October 9, 2001, the Strokes released their first album, "Is This It."

The reaction was explosive. Thanks to the record's minimalist instrumentation and powerful playing, the band was compared to the best of the '70s New York punk scene and that scene's godfathers, the Velvet Underground.

Then a backlash erupted, as it often does when a band is hailed as the Next Big Thing. The Strokes weren't as good as the White Stripes, weren't as good as the Hives, said the critics. There was a backlash to the backlash, and the discussion room discussions grew.

It all kept the band's profile high: the album made 10-best lists, the band appeared in fashion layouts, observers hailed a new New York scene.

Heady stuff. But could the Strokes follow it up?

The question will be answered Tuesday when the group's second album, "Room on Fire," is released.

Eye on Entertainment bends an ear.


The Strokes are walking a fine line. On the one hand, the band still has "indie cred" -- "Is This It" received some airplay, went gold, but it's not like Strokes-mania erupted (at least, not among non-rock critics). The group didn't appear on the front of cereal boxes and shill Mountain Dew on television.

But now expectations are high. The first album went gold; no doubt the record company is hoping the new one will go platinum. "Is This It" didn't have a huge hit single; perhaps "Room on Fire" (RCA) will.

Sometimes the big success of crossover is good for a band. R.E.M. -- whose new greatest-hits album, "In Time," is also due Tuesday -- earned mainstream success with 1987's "The One I Love" and continued to put out challenging, but now big-selling, albums. U2 also balanced artistic buzz and big sales after its breakthrough in the mid-'80s. The White Stripes, with the recent "Elephant," appear to be on their way.

But it can also spell doom, putting artists on a hamster wheel to keep outdoing themselves in one way or another.

The advance word on "Room on Fire" is mixed. The New Musical Express says it's as good as the first album and says that it hints at even better things to come. But the British newspaper The Guardian called half of it "uninspired filler."

Rolling Stone gave it four stars, but it rarely gives anything less than three, so it's hard to tell just what the magazine thinks.

So will Strokes-mania emerge? The answer is yet to come.

On screen

• Angelina Jolie's experience in "Beyond Borders" helped inspire her to become an active United Nations volunteer. The movie concerns a socialite who follows an idealistic doctor on his travels and then embarks on her own journey.

• "Radio" stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as a mentally challenged man who is befriended by a high school coach (Ed Harris). The movie charts their friendship over the decades.

• The Wayans brothers have, for the most part, now bowed out of the "Scary Movie" franchise, allowing a Zucker brother -- David -- to take the directing reins for "Scary Movie 3." The Zuckers made "Airplane!" and the "Police Squad!" movies, so the pedigree may be enough.

On the tube

• An heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, Jamie Johnson, decided to make a documentary showing how his half lives. The result, "Born Rich," airs 10 p.m. Monday on HBO. (HBO is a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

• Talk about second acts: After an exciting first year, "24" came back last year for a second season and managed to cement its success. The third season of the Kiefer Sutherland show premieres 9 p.m. Tuesday on Fox.

Sound waves

• R.E.M.'s greatest-hits collection, "In Time" (Warner Bros., also a division of Time Warner), covers the band's hit-making years -- 1988 to the present. If you want the earlier I.R.S. stuff, check out "Eponymous."

Paging readers

• It's not every day that brings a new novel from a Nobel Prize winner. Toni Morrison's latest, "Love" (Knopf), concerns a deceased hotel entrepreneur, his wife and granddaughter, and an ex-con in a story that flows between the present and the past. Due Tuesday.

• Peter Carey's last novel, "The True Story of the Kelly Gang," won the Booker Prize. His new work, "My Life as a Fake" (Knopf), is out Tuesday.

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