Walter Becker Geoff Brown - Essay

Geoff Brown

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Often, at first, [Steely Dan's] music has to be approached through a mist of murky alienation (many of their lyrical themes are negative statements) and foggy intent which gradually disperses with the warmth of repetition and recognition.

Nevertheless it's a satisfying experience for the "cleverness" of the combo is never in question yet when pure talent applies and expresses itself obliquely the results are bound to need a shade more assimilation than the normal brainless, bone-crunching rock.

The heart of Steely Dan, writers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, draw a thin veil across their purpose, expressing lyrics vaguely, not telling the whole story…. They are toying with inaccessibility but their grasp of attractive rock is sure as the list of US hit singles—"Reeling In The Years," "Do It Again," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"—illustrates….

"Katy Lied" doesn't have the heady impact of ["Can't Buy A Thrill"] and falls short of the masterful ["Pretzel Logic"], but like a slow unfolding tale, the album grows in stature by the play….

"Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" is a hoot. Sugar daddy stops messing round in Big Apple and quits. A simple, witty song….

"Everyone's Gone To The Movies," a song from 1972, is, like "Daddy," blessed by Dan's characteristic black humour…. "Any World" continues the theme of disenchantment, Dan's sure melodic touch belies the subject matter. It does on "World" and it does on the cynical "Throw Back The Little Ones," which is testament to Fagen-Becker's understanding of the hustler on the city streets.

"Katy Lied" doesn't boast the welter of grand songs which set 1974's "Pretzel Logic" apart from the pack but in the coming year few albums will confound, intrigue and finally charm the listener as sneakily as Steely Dan's latest.

Geoff Brown, in his review of "Katy Lied," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), April 5, 1975, p. 24.