"How we do it: First we hook up a sequence of sleek & slinky musical cells over which we sprinkle the most amusing lyrics. Immediately we get on the horn and round up our swinging sidemen, including but not limited to Keith Carlock (drums), Jon Herrington (guitar), Hugh McCracken (guitar), Ted Baker (keyboards), and yours truely, Mssrs. Becker and Fagen on our respective axes. Elliot Scheiner, who is not for nothing the Godfather of 5.1 Surround, does the tracking chores. Next thing you know, the wiggy vocal and stellar solo work are stacked atop the now-realized grooves and harmonies. After mixdown, the finished album reveals to its makers deep subterranean themes and powerful emotional undercurrents that satisfy and surprise at the same time."- Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
After trading their infamous two-decade hiatus for an armful of Grammies, Steely Dan breezed through the recording of Two Against Nature's follow-up in a year--near record time in the oft-tortuous Becker/Fagan sessionography. Loosening their notoriously anal retentive studio bent has yielded upbeat immediacy, an almost un-Dan-like brightness to jazzy funk and blues that snap and crackle--even if pop is obviously the farthest thing from their fevered brows. But anyone who confuses the sunny disposition of "Blues Beach" and others here with anything but an ever slyer incarnation of their trademark irony and icy veneer just isn't paying attention. Bookended by "The Last Mall" (a cool, chunky update of "Black Friday"'s apocalypse) and a bluesy, laconic title track that serves up metaphors for bankruptcies both commercial and moral, Walt and Don argue that our once fair society may well be past redemption. Better to simply close out the excess with a good blue-light special. "Godwhacker" serves jazz-head notice on no less than the almighty, whilst Becker makes his belated Steely Dan vocal bow on the slinky "Slang of Ages," daring to be termed "Newmanesque" for rhyming "netherworld" with "Duke of Earl"--if not his lugubrious, lounge-lizard delivery. Abetted by guitarists Hugh McCracken and Jon Herrington, the sax of Walt Weiskopf (and others), and synched to the playful grooves of drummer Keith Carlock, Becker and Fagan bring a deliciously detached elegance to "Green Book" and "Pixeleen"'s sharp musings on digital vidiocy, forging an album that's a cunning, symbolic reminder that the sun will shine brightest just before it explodes. --Jerry McCulley