Weekend Beats: Another Gentleman Loser

Steely Dan might be the weirdest rock band ever. Their music isn’t prog rock; it’s not precisely jazz rock; and it’s definitely not rock rock. It’s telling that no hipster band sounds much like them. I doubt anyone with the technical chops to do so also possesses the literate weirdness to write some of Fagen and Becker’s lyrics, like these from my favorite Steely Dan song, “Deacon Blues”:

My back to the wall
A victim of laughing chance
This is for me
The essence of true romance
Sharing the things we know and love
With those of my kind
That stagger the mind

I crawl like a viper
Through these suburban streets
Make love to these women
Languid and bittersweet
I’ll rise when the sun goes down
Cover every game in town
A world of my own
I’ll make it my home sweet home

And here’e where we come back to Ryan’s previous post about bachelor television. Steely Dan’s music is some of the most technically polished and esoteric in rock history, while their lyrics often reveal anxieties about aging, not being able to really connect with the people around you (especially women), and driving for the sake of driving. It’s rock that stinks of bach, but not the professional kind Hefner was selling in Chicago, or the suntan oil crisped kind he hawked after moving his operation to the westside of Los Angeles. Instead, it’s inebriated insecurity where you can never really cut loose. You’re drunk but know it, and think everyone is laughing at your shirt that doesn’t really fit well, your cheap haircut, your bookishness. There’s so little swagger in a chorus like this:

Tell me where are you driving
Midnight cruiser
Where is your bounty
Of fortune and fame
I am another
Gentlemen loser
Drive me to Harlem
Or somewhere the same

That’s bach that disappears into the night assuming it won’t end in glory. It’s a perpetual motion machine that spins in circles, gaining more momentum in its death spiral. And yet it’s funny as hell. It knows enough to be in on the joke, to in fact make it before anyone else can, a central philosophical point in perhaps the greatest bachelor novel ever written, Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human.* I’d never claim Steely Dan as my favorite band, but damn if they don’t make a ton of sense. So enjoy their first album on me.


*I hope to write a longer post about this incredible novel in the near future.


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