But hey, I'm not complainin'. It's great to see Steely Dan still around. There aren't a whole lot of artists still standing, and still relevant, from the early days of classic rock (just think...Steely Dan's Can't Buy A Thrill was released way back in 1972...the same year that Eat A Peach and Fragile came out).
What's interesting about the "modern" version of Steely Dan is that their music seems to have been influenced not at all by the passage of time. A ton of musical genres have come and gone since the release of Aja (1977)...none of which have found their way into Fagen & Becker's music (note: this doesn't apply to the lyrics. Cripes, listen to "Pixeleen"...the phrase "keep it real" appears...yo!)
Why is this interesting? Well, the other constant in Steely Dan's music is the overall style. You know it when you hear it. Ten seconds (maybe less) into a new tune and you just know who it is. But ... the songs stand on their own. Maybe it's the jazzy elements that took hold on Aja ... or their use of reggae and funk rhythms ... or the angular guitar licks ... or the horns that step in once and a while. All I know is that I end up listening to Steely Dan tunes like I listen to jazz (and other instrumental) records: because the arrangements they put together manage to be both familiar and new every time you listen.
Examples? I love the way that , during the verses of "Things I Miss The Most", the descending piano figure and choppy guitar stabs provide support for the vocals. Then there's the snappy little guitar lick in the intro to "Godwhacker" that becomes the motif used for the rhythm guitar for the rest of the tune. And how about the short bebop-y sax in the intro to "Pixeleen"? It's an odd little bit ... but then the sax reappears later for a short solo.
Ps. check out the frightening picture of Fagen & Becker on the back of the cd booklet. Man, they're startin' to look like characters out of David Lynch's Blue Velvet!
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)