Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No. 145: Aja

Band: Steely Dan
Album: Aja
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Considered the greatest Steely Dan record, "Aja" follows the classic Steely Dan pattern of fusing jazz and rock and roll.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Do you know anyone who considers him or herself a big Steely Dan fan? I do, but I think I know the only Steely Dan fan in existence.
Best song: "Deacon Blues" is classic and I enjoy "Home At Last" for its theme (Odysseus).
Worst song: "Josie" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: I don't think so.

"Aja" has gone platinum. How this is, I could not tell you. The record is interesting, on a lot of levels.

Steely Dan makes muzak, basically. I hate to write that, because I do know the only Steely Dan fanatic in the world (my former college classmate's Kelly Dwyer) and he has tried to explain to me at many a college party about the band's brilliance -- between conversation about beer, Urge Overkill, the triangle offense and women.

And, I see it, on some level. They're literate and even wrote a song about the Odyssey ("Home At Last") on "Aja." They tried to tell some stories ("Peg") and reference college stuff ("Deacon Blues"):

I'll learn to work the saxophone
I'll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whiskey all night long
And die behind the wheel
They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

The title track meanders for eight minutes, which is certainly entertaining, but the jazz-rock can put you to sleep. Outside of "Deacon Blues," I find it boring. Blah.

Look, Steely Dan is interesting and they're clearly great musicians. But, the fact is that they are not (and shouldn't be) on anyone's radar screen who is under 30 years old (other than my friend). They solely exist to give classic rock radio stations something to play late at night when the DJs have exhausted the Beatles, Stones and Zep songs.

Steely Dan has a great record and it's on this list (no. 238), but "Aja" just isn't it for me. If KD reads this, maybe he can correct me.

1 comment:

fft said...

I am the second Steely Dan fan. They sort of fall into the guilty pleasure category for me, but I can also defend them if pushed into a corner. I think this is a great album and would recommend to others to listen to. If you play music and like tight, difficult arrangements you may like these guys.

I think their concept was awesome. Two music geeks / coke fiends who were total control freaks going for the very best cut possible on every track. They would bring different musicians in for different songs to get exactly the right feel. They would say "this song needs to have an East Coast feel" and would fly out to NYC and seek out the right musicians for just one song, and then they'd head back to L.A. to get another sound for the next song. Think Billy Corgan but in a cooler, less egotistical way. I also liked the bitter, sarcastic lyrics which had sort of an early Elvis Costello sort of attitude.