THE STEELY DAN INTERNET RESOURCE
Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2003
Steely Dan starts its summer tour of 'Everything Must Go' in all its jaded glory
By Randy Lewis, Times Staff Writer
For a short time after Sept. 11, some pundits pronounced irony and cynicism dead. Had that been true, it certainly would have meant the end of the line for a pop-rock band as thoroughly and fundamentally drenched in those qualities as Steely Dan.
Almost two years later, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have released
their first album since the day the world stopped turning, and, sure
enough, "Everything Must Go" finds them back in all their
irony- and cynicism-laced glory.
Becker, singing "Slang of Ages," his first Steely Dan lead vocal in the group's 31-year recording career, tossed out the line "Let's roll with the homies," as though it were an integral part of every 50-ish white man's lexicon. Now that's irony.
A larger dichotomy crops up in the title tune and another new track, "The Last Mall," songs that yearn — beneath their characteristically coolly detached cynical-ironic surfaces — for the end of rampant consumerism.
"Things I Miss the Most" also revisits the droll, seemingly imperturbable character who raises his head regularly in the Steely Dan canon. This time he's assessing a recent breakup and dispassionately counting his losses — "The talk, the sex/ Somebody to trust/ The Audi TT" — with an equanimity possible only from a character without a heart.
It does start to cast a been-there, done-that air to the proceedings: After pairing "Hey Nineteen" with the similarly lecherous "Janie Runaway," Fagen dryly referred to it as "our jailbait medley." Juxtaposed with core numbers from the band's creative peak in the '70s — hit singles such as "Do It Again," "Reeling in the Years" and "Peg" to FM-radio staple album cuts "Kid Charlemagne" and "Aja" — much of the new material sounded self-consciously jazzy, as if they've outgrown linear progression in melodies or compositional structures with even the remotest connection to the blues form that's still at the heart of most pop music.
At its best, Steely Dan crafted songs with the accessibility of rock, the rhythmic thrust of funk, the liberating spirit of jazz and the intellectual challenge of top-notch fiction. Notwithstanding the mind-boggling instrumental proficiency of Fagen and Becker's eight-member touring band (along with three soulful backup singers), they appear to have given up trying to motivate anyone's feet and are happy just striving to keep everyone's cerebellums engaged.