Local Wire

Steely Dan

While parents have predictably freaked out over the social menace imposed by the blues, jazz, secular R&B, rock 'n' 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 that became 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 digestible 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 beside the all-time giants of composition.

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Saby Reyes-Kulkarni