The verdict on Steely Dan's "Aja"

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  • One of my all time fav is Deacon Blue.


    "Drink Scotch whiskey all night long
    And die behind the wheel"

    "They got a name for the winners in the world
    And I want a name when I lose."

  • VitaminVitamin 631 Posts
    I love Steely Dan. But you could argue that it's the best smooth jazz you've ever heard. Wu is on point about the lyrics being dylanesque at times. Everyone propping Royal Scam as their best I cosign six days a week. Every song is about a crime. Kid Charlemagne is about a drug dealer, Caves of Altimira is about defacing ruins, Don't Take me alive is about the university of texas sniper, sign in stranger is about a third world prison. On day seven I choose either Aja or Katy Lied. Katy Lied lacks the sampleable grooves of Aja and Scam, but it's dark and wierd, and has some of the illest Michael McDonald harmonies on wax. "Bad Sneakers." My low key fave off of Aja is "Home at last," a nod to Homer and Joyce, and I love the piano chords. I am a big fan of Fagan's Nightfly. "Goodbye Look" is about a revolution on a small colonial island and the chords are esablished on steel drums, "Walk Between the Raindrops" is just a smoking jazz blues, and IGY is well--a jellybean smoothie--yes it crosses the line from butter and brie--but seriously pass the chardonay. "Morph the Cat?" Terrible title, but there is some ridiculous joints on that too. To all the Dan heads, give "Two Against Nature" a second chance. "Gaslighting Abby" is worth that alone. It's Peg level.

    I totally understand the sentiment that the Dan is the inspiration for punk. And I am one of the few people who can dig some proto and pre punk as well as steely dan. There is something kind of ruling class about the Dan, they are culturally linked to suburban mcmansions and japanese sports cars. They are like the soundtrack to dick head 6 figure a year lawyers getting divorced to fuck their secretaries. And Fagen is so detached and loves irony so much that he's often laughing at the world instead of screaming about how banal or unjust it is. Punk is a lot of things, but detached and nuanced it is not.

    But here's the rub, the Dan are fascinating musically. Punk is totally boring from the perspective of a musician. It's loud, sloppy and offensive. I'm not saying that there is not art in it, but there is barely any discipline. The Dan is all painstaking detail and deliberation. Everything they do is all star, at times needlessly complicated like the chart for Bodhisavta. But it all flows. And in this respect their music endures in a way that the typical eagles or Los Lobos record of that era does not. some punk endures too. I am not counting the clash in this discussion by the way. They are super interesting to musicians, particularly when they are playing punky reggae or a variation of straight punk.

    Nonetheless, Dan is not flawless. For all the perfect writing, playing and production--Fagen is a strained vocalist. But could you imagine anybody else singing "Lost in the Barrio, I walk like an Injun?"

  • DocMcCoyDocMcCoy "Go and laugh in your own country!" 5,913 Posts
    I love Steely Dan. But you could argue that it's the best smooth jazz you've ever heard. Wu is on point about the lyrics being dylanesque at times. Everyone propping Royal Scam as their best I cosign six days a week. Every song is about a crime. Kid Charlemagne is about a drug dealer, Caves of Altimira is about defacing ruins, Don't Take me alive is about the university of texas sniper, sign in stranger is about a third world prison. On day seven I choose either Aja or Katy Lied. Katy Lied lacks the sampleable grooves of Aja and Scam, but it's dark and wierd, and has some of the illest Michael McDonald harmonies on wax. "Bad Sneakers." My low key fave off of Aja is "Home at last," a nod to Homer and Joyce, and I love the piano chords. I am a big fan of Fagan's Nightfly. "Goodbye Look" is about a revolution on a small colonial island and the chords are esablished on steel drums, "Walk Between the Raindrops" is just a smoking jazz blues, and IGY is well--a jellybean smoothie--yes it crosses the line from butter and brie--but seriously pass the chardonay. "Morph the Cat?" Terrible title, but there is some ridiculous joints on that too. To all the Dan heads, give "Two Against Nature" a second chance. "Gaslighting Abby" is worth that alone. It's Peg level.

    I totally understand the sentiment that the Dan is the inspiration for punk. And I am one of the few people who can dig some proto and pre punk as well as steely dan. There is something kind of ruling class about the Dan, they are culturally linked to suburban mcmansions and japanese sports cars. They are like the soundtrack to dick head 6 figure a year lawyers getting divorced to fuck their secretaries. And Fagen is so detached and loves irony so much that he's often laughing at the world instead of screaming about how banal or unjust it is. Punk is a lot of things, but detached and nuanced it is not.

    But here's the rub, the Dan are fascinating musically. Punk is totally boring from the perspective of a musician. It's loud, sloppy and offensive. I'm not saying that there is not art in it, but there is barely any discipline. The Dan is all painstaking detail and deliberation. Everything they do is all star, at times needlessly complicated like the chart for Bodhisavta. But it all flows. And in this respect their music endures in a way that the typical eagles or Los Lobos record of that era does not. some punk endures too. I am not counting the clash in this discussion by the way. They are super interesting to musicians, particularly when they are playing punky reggae or a variation of straight punk.

    Nonetheless, Dan is not flawless. For all the perfect writing, playing and production--Fagen is a strained vocalist. But could you imagine anybody else singing "Lost in the Barrio, I walk like an Injun?"

    As a Dan fan (even during my punk years), I would like to not only emphatically like a mufucka, but also add that this is a nice piece of writing too.

    But, the oft-repeated canard that the Dan represent the apogee of self-satisfied, coked-out muso-wank usually doesn't take into account the fact that it's about the whole package - mordant and ironic lyrics, the death of hippie idealism, an abandonment of rock 'n' roll's cult of personality in favour of the discipline and adventurousness of jazz, everything in service of the music, etc. Maybe you needed to be around when their shit first dropped to really understand how different it was from just about everything out at the time. I was only a kid, but I definitely got it on some subconscious level, because my dad was a jazzer and I already had an ear for that shit. I remember reading an interview with Becker & Fagen where they said something to the effect of, "Oh, we don't listen to rock music at all. We like Joni Mitchell, but that's pretty much it". This was radical shit to be saying in the mid-70's - they were always completely in opposition to overblown 70's self-indulgence, so I always found it funny that they were (and still are) held up as poster-boys for its worst excesses.

  • twoctwoc 3 Posts
    pedestrian at best

  • DocMcCoyDocMcCoy "Go and laugh in your own country!" 5,913 Posts
    pedestrian at best

    Well, I don't want another Pat Metheny-type thread up in here, so we'll have to agree to differ.

  • twoctwoc 3 Posts
    pedestrian at best

    Well, I don't want another Pat Metheny-type thread up in here, so we'll have to agree to differ.

    what do i know tho, apparently i only got em on my ipod!

    i gotta say my best mate is completely strung out on them, and his constant playing of them at me has turned kinda ruined any chance of me liking them ever.

    i do sneakily listen to the deacon blue track sometimes when he's not lookin

  • Yo! Aja is the schitt.



    The only reason you'd be hating on it is because you don't get it.

  • SwayzeSwayze 14,705 Posts
    Actually, these lyrics are from "Deacon Blues" (from Aja), which I do on occasion at karaoke.

    Actually, these lyrics are from "Deacon Blues" (from Aja), which I do on occasion at karaoke.

    Actually, these lyrics are from "Deacon Blues" (from Aja), which I do on occasion at karaoke.

    Actually, these lyrics are from "Deacon Blues" (from Aja), which I do on occasion at karaoke.



    MY BROTHER... I fucking love you!!!!

  • VitaminVitamin 631 Posts

    But, the oft-repeated canard that the Dan represent the apogee of self-satisfied, coked-out muso-wank usually doesn't take into account the fact that it's about the whole package - mordant and ironic lyrics, the death of hippie idealism, an abandonment of rock 'n' roll's cult of personality in favour of the discipline and adventurousness of jazz, everything in service of the music, etc. Maybe you needed to be around when their shit first dropped to really understand how different it was from just about everything out at the time. I was only a kid, but I definitely got it on some subconscious level, because my dad was a jazzer and I already had an ear for that shit. I remember reading an interview with Becker & Fagen where they said something to the effect of, "Oh, we don't listen to rock music at all. We like Joni Mitchell, but that's pretty much it". This was radical shit to be saying in the mid-70's - they were always completely in opposition to overblown 70's self-indulgence, so I always found it funny that they were (and still are) held up as poster-boys for its worst excesses.


    Cosign here too. And great writing. I think you are right that the dan are commentary on the failure of hippie idealism, the excesses of all of that. But it's done with this mellow humor and easy groove that has appealed to a selfish class. I mean the dad who ran the retirement home in Say Anything kept playing "Rikki don't lose that number," one of their worst songs imo. You could associate them with datsun zx-7s and the hair club for men. But I don't know any musicians who don't at least respect them.

  • montymonty 420 Posts
    ...But I don't know any musicians who don't at least respect them.
    i don't know any either.

  • Phill_MostPhill_Most 4,594 Posts
    Caves of Altimira



    "Lost in the Barrio, I walk like an Injun"

    awwwww schitt... y'all gettin' my lite rock juices flowin' again

  • JimsterJimster Cruffiton.etsy.com 6,887 Posts
    "Before the fall, when they wrote it on Soulstrut, when there wasn't even any Facebook."



  • DuderonomyDuderonomy Haut de la Garenne 7,783 Posts
    I still don't really know these guys, and I dread reading through this to see how quickly the me 9 years ago might've dismissed them. But still one to file under retirement activities next to golf. And actually 'getting' Pharaoh Sanders.

  • kicks79kicks79 1,334 Posts
    I really can't see how anyone could hate on Aja.
    Solid album from start to finish. 

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