Thursday, November 15, 2007

No. 238: Can't Buy a Thrill

Band: Steely Dan
Album: Can't Buy A Thrill
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Jazzy, funky, rock-,uh,-y... Steely Dan's debut album has a smooth feel.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Steely Dan doesn't have a ton of fans and I don't totally see the draw in them.
Best song: The first two tracks are the hits from the record ("Dirty Work" and "Do It Again") are pretty great, as is the third hit, "Reelin' in the Years."
Worst song: I don't love "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again."
Is it awesome?: Well...

You may remember my claiming ignorance for Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew?" So much so that I punted the review to a friend?

Well, I'm doing that again. Basketball expert and world's biggest Steely Dan fan Kelly Dwyer ("I'm the only Steely Dan fan I've ever met," he says.) is here to fill the space.

Here are some of the credentials he owns:

Anyway, the point is this: He knows his shit. His words follow:


One of my major quibbles with the RS list, and Ross' continued breakdown, is the emphasis on what is "important" and what dissipates in time. (Ed. note: I will be writing about this soon.) I've no interest in that, I can understand why "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" means the world to a modern world full of guys with spit curls and zero Otis Redding albums, but it shouldn't mean I should have to give a rip.

"Can't Buy a Thrill" isn't important. It's the plexiglass sound of two assholes handing songs to a band full of mustaches and beards and overalls and it was recorded during downtime when the assholes in question were on a midnight holiday removed from writing songs for Denny Doherty. It's the first album anyone heard that used plastic keyboards and electric sitars for sounds not intended to accurate and/or soulful; instead, the "instruments" were used to unnerve and enervate. Years before Farfisas and odd stringed-things were thrown into the mix by self-aware, too-informed bands with five Nuggets copies between them, these assholes used them because they sounded right.

The album, more or less, is this picture:

It's that peace sign, and that sneer. The sneer that allows for "Change of the Guard," that allows for spelling "midnight" with an "n-i-t-e." It's an inside joke. It's a peace sign that doesn't count. It's a pose that few others -- no others, probably -- can pull off. Lord knows I've tried, but it comes off as too damn sincere and I'm embarrassed by the time I look at the back of that tall kid's camera. It's an album that draws you in, fooling with tripe like "motion in the music" before it laughs down your sleeve at you for actually taking it seriously. If that's cold or cruel or calculating, then boo-fucking-hoo. Elliott Randall's in the parking lot, if you can't pull off the necessary pull-offs.

It's not their best, and it's probably not something they're proud of, but it works. Dearest Gustav, beloved Tristan: Dan Steele. Outre' Daniel, Steely Dan. It's growing.


Amphibian said...

Where the hell is Kelly writing these days? I know he stopped writing for Sports Illustrated and he occasionally guests over at True Hoop, but I'd like to read his stuff more often.

Where he at, yo?

Anonymous said...

Kelly is at Yahoo, with a great blog