Long before the post-rockers began applying their maths degrees to deconstruct art, [a]Steely Dan[/a] were, proudly, the brainiest band on the planet. Their songs, as densely allusive as metafiction, were cold-eyed satires on ’70s California, set to equally complex and precise music that placed jazz and blues in a sleek, grit-free new context. The work of two decadent New York cynics, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, and literally hundreds of bullied sessioneers, they were a uniquely heartless, brilliant band.
Now, after a 20-year hiatus that’s included very occasional solo albums and the odd reunion tour, ‘Two Against Nature’ is, exquisitely, more of the same. Once more, we’re in a world of uptight, high-gloss grooves, wry tales of dirty old men, and, of course, terrifyingly proficient guitar solos. And very duplicitous and alluring it is too.
There’s a certain profane pleasure in enjoying [a]Steely Dan[/a], in celebrating their perverse reversal of all the raw, brutal, soulful values we’re brought up on; not even their sampling by Super Furry Animals on ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ can bestow credibility on these chill perfectionists.
But as the fiendishly elaborate likes of ‘Cousin Dupree’ and the exceptional syncopated clatter of the title track prove, Becker and Fagen plainly couldn’t give a fuck either, still hermetically sealed in an exclusive world where the pursuit of the immaculate ‘chop’ is paramount, the only men in history to make the concept of the cerebral muso remotely tantalising. Like Fagen sings on ‘West Of Hollywood’ – [I]”All the way from here and now to hell and gone”[/I] – they, and their fans, are a long, long way beyond help. [I]Join us[/I].