Review Summary: Coming soon to a traffic-cam channel near you...
Im hoping you guys know what I am talking about when I bring traffic camera channels up. In case you're somehow oblivious to the outside world, or are a 40 year old virgin playing World of Warcraft in your mom's basement, they're those channels where there's hidden cameras documenting traffic, while cheesy and dull jazz funk music plays in the background. And it's been, I dunno, 9 years since this album came out, and I'm shocked I'm not hearing it on my local traffic cam channel, as it wouldn't be out of place there.
Which is sad. Considering Steely Dan made quite the name for themselves back in the seventies, with their own fusion of Jazz, funk, and R&B, you'd think that they wouldn't stoop this low. Upon the second track's arrival, titled "The Things I Miss the Most", you'd think that by the second track the album would have progressed somewhere. Sadly it sounds like the other eight songs on the album, and it's just tediuous.
Let's wind the clocks a bit back to 2000. Their first album after a 20 year hiatus, Two Against Nature
gets released. This is some big stuff. It's one of their best albums since Aja
. It fuses their old style with a more, newer, trendier jazz funk sounds. The eponymous track in particular has an insanely jazzy baseline and one of the catchiest vocal melodies and choruses in their career. Then in 2003, this gets released. Part of me thinks this album was either a) a label pressured album or b) they got a little too carried away with the newer, funkier style. Whatever it is, the result sure isn't good.
True, the band's attempts at black humor are still there. And boy, do they try with this one. "Blues Beach" is a happy song about gang violence and child prostitution, and you'd expect there to be some subtlety there, but in reality, it's as subtle as bricks in a drying machine. "The Last Mall" is a song bout the apocalypse, and the lyrics are just boring.
Without a doubt the worst song EVER made by Steely Dan is on this disc too: "Slang of Ages". Dear lord, what a terrible song. Walter Becker tries a hand at spoken word and it's quite... um, embarrassing. To think that this came from the same people who made "Pretzel Logic" or "Kid Charlemagne" is just astounding. The bassline is uninspiring and that chorus has one of the most annoying vocal melodies I've ever heard. But the spoken word is not helped by those godawful lyrics and Becker sounding like a creepy old man lecherously pining after young girls.
Fortunately there's some redemption here, in the form of two songs: "Green Book" is an amazingly catchy tune with a jazzy baseline and some cool lyrics. It does have that traffic-cam channel music sound to it, but it's listenable and it's something that I'd very well feature one best of compilation. And the eponymous track. If the band had to end their career with that song, that would be a wise choice. The clever satire of the lyrics and the overall bittersweet feel of the tune definitely make the song sound like a grand finale tune, and it does leave you with a lingering melancholy feeling.
While those tracks are indeed worth the wading through boring drones like "Godwhacker" or "Pixeleen" (whoever names their kid that should kill themselves), they're too far and between. So in this day and age of MP3 technology, I'd gladly rip the mentioned tracks to put onto my iPod and happily sell my copy to the traffic cam channel, where boring crap like this truly belongs.