Walter Becker Ariel Swartley - Essay

Ariel Swartley

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The thing you begin to notice, listening to Steely Dan's songs, is that no one ever answers anyone. For all the talk—and their latest album, Gaucho, is as compulsively chatty as dinnertime on death row—there's no conversation. Whoever keeps asking, "Who is that gaucho, amigo?" might as well be talking to the wall. (p. 41)

Naturally, the guy gets a little hysterical as the game goes on, but not so much so that he can't remember details—such as everything that freaky gaucho was wearing. To Steely Dan's constantly talking heads, surfaces seem very clear. It's only people who are indistinct: shadow figures, possibly hallucinations, always unknown quantities.

But sometimes...

(The entire section is 517 words.)