Walter Becker Richard Cromelin - Essay

Richard Cromelin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Steely Dan is about, among other things, connection. It's the 3,000-mile live wire buzzing between 60s New England school days and 70s Laurel Canyon Showbiz, steel handcuffs linking jazz with pop, the Archies with William Burroughs, a shifting patchwork of vindictiveness and tenderness. Connection on all levels, deliberate and wildly accidental….

There are more, and shorter, songs [on Pretzel Logic] than on Countdown to Ecstasy, and while those maddening, fascinating references to private people, places and events still crop up, the overall feeling of the lyrics is significantly less obscure. The Dan evokes and suggests, yet the songs always feel complete and direct…. They seem confident that whatever you create out of what they suggest is going to hit the intended targets. The lushness of the music is tempered by their incomparable dry wit.

Though there's an uncharacteristic lack of import in some of the tunes ("Parker's Band," "With a Gun") and unexpected mellowness in others ("Any Major Dude Will Tell You," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"), it's the moments in which Walter Becker and Donald Fagen lash out from quicksand insecurity that remain the metallic heart of Steely Dan. "Through with Buzz" is one of the best….

Another peak is "Charlie Freak," the story of a down-and-out denizen of the streets who sells his precious ring to our hero, then ODs on the drugs he buys with the windfall…. The singer rushes to the morgue and returns the ring to the cold finger…. Go back, Jack, do it again. Connection….

Steely Dan is the best band in America…. Pretzel Logic is great. Connect.

Richard Cromelin, in his review of "Pretzel Logic," in Creem (© copyright 1974 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 6, No. 2, July, 1974, p. 62.