Here we go again: I do not like Steely Dan. This album does not change that feeling in any way. The problems I have with Steely Dan records are as present on this record as any of their ’70s records I’ve heard. The more albums I listen to, the more I become convinced that, once they evolved into themselves, they spent a career making music I will never like.
As I’ve said many times before – I feel like I broken record – I am not necessarily opposed to Fagen and Becker’s songs. I like Fagen as a lyricist, I might even go so far as to say that he is among the better lyricists of his generation, especially if we limit it to lyricists of bands (as opposed to out-and-out “singer songwriters”). And I like the idea of their songs: sophisticated songs relying on jazz chords (and other non-mainstream ideas) but which remain catchy enough. The problem is never (or rarely) the songs.
The problem for me is always their aesthetic: a bloodless integration of jazz and funk into an accessible pop rock palette, featuring plenty of very talented musicians playing as precisely as they possibly can. And because Fagen and Becker don’t like warts, there are no warts. It’s incredibly professional and completely anathema to what I like in rock music, in funk music and in jazz. They like some of the same genres I do but they appear to not like the same things within those genres as I do. Or, their version of these things is a poor representation of those genres. (I would certainly argue the latter. This jazz rock sure doesn’t make me want to listen to jazz.)
Honestly I just throw up my hands: two talented guys – songwriters as well as musicians – who want to hammer the life out of everything they make, with a maniacal focus on precision. Why?!?