Darkness Calls

While parents have predictably freaked out over the social menace imposed in turn by the blues, jazz, secular R&B, rock and roll, heavy metal, rap, and techno, they never seemed to bat an eyelash over Steely Dan. In fact, they seemed to dig the band more than anyone. And it’s a testament to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s subtlety that they managed to get away with some of the darkest music ever committed to tape. That the pair scored a string of smash hits which became ubiquitous cultural staples would be shocking and downright subversive if the music weren’t so smooth. In their prime, Becker and Fagen had an untouchable knack for disguising complex, challenging jazz as easily-digested pop. And you may never have noticed, but within those ultra-polished jazz-pop grooves lurks a shadow world of drugs, creeping sexual desire, domestic violence, and world-weary ennui -- which becomes all-too-believable when you read between the lines. Essentially a nostalgia act now, Steely Dan’s underlying gloom helps the music retain a contemporary edge, while Becker and Fagen’s monumental body of work will forever stand aside the all-time giants of composition.
Sun., July 20, 7:30 p.m., 2008

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