Walter Becker Chuck Mitchell - Essay

Chuck Mitchell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Steely Dan may be too good for its own good. The rock audience seems rather content lately to stagnate in its own shallow pool of pompous British art-rockers, somnabulistic middle-class folk-poets, and infantile southern boogie bands, while it waits lethargically with glitter on its eyelashes for the Beatles to regroup. Into this mess springs Steely Dan, with its short, lucid, offbeat melodies and literate, semi-obscure but meaningful lyrics. They're bound to either take off completely or become cult heroes….

[There] is much to be reckoned with on Pretzel Logic, all of it smooth, elegant, and unacceptable only to those with the most neanderthal of commercial ears….

[The] lyrical style of the band is cynically, sarcastically appropriate to the '70s. While not totally opaque, the words demand careful attention and some thought. More often than not, the visions they project are jaundiced and bleak. But the lyrics are also well-written; they use the language intelligently, which is all too rare these days.

Pretzel Logic presents us with a band that has much to say, and they say it with grace, wit, intelligence, and economy. Hopefully, the album has the power to place Steely Dan once again in that rare group whose work has artistic resonance, subtlety, and depth, as well as the ability to appeal to a vast audience.

Chuck Mitchell, in his review of "Pretzel Logic," in down beat (copyright 1974; reprinted with permission of down beat), Vol. 41, No. 10, May 23, 1974, p. 18.