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Steely Dan Everything Must Go Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review's business as usual. If only all other bands' business were this crisp, funky...

Chris Jones 2003

There must be something in the Dan's water supply at the moment. After a 19-year gap between albums Gaucho and Two Against Nature Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have come up with the goods again after only three years! Maybe it's a reflection of a loosening of their notoriously perfectionist, nay anal approach to the writing and recording process. Certainly, Everything Must Go, builds on the chirpy vibe of Two Against... Despite the often grim subject matter of these nine songs, this could be the sardonic duo's happiest-sounding record yet.

Interviews had hinted that the boys had settled on a looser, more blues-based vibe and, sure enough, what we get this time around is a collection of grooves. This works for and against them. Drummer Keith Carlock is so deep in the pocket that he's in danger of being mistaken for spare change. A few nifty time changes really wouldn't go amiss and the relentless search for the funky backbeat often precludes the actual resolution of a hummable tune. Having said all this, there are at least three future classics here and it's still head and shoulders above what most contemporaries are achieving.

Lyrically they're sharper than ever. They've seemingly shrugged off the last album's rather obsessive subject matter of old men and considerably younger girls, though Walter Becker's vocal debut on ''Slang Of Ages'' puts one in mind of the sleaziest of chat-ups. Elsewhere they turn their cynical eyes over familiarSteely matters such as the apocalypse (''The Last Mall''), divorce and break-ups (''The Things I Miss The Most'' and ''Everything Must Go''), terrorism (''Godwhacker'') and technology (''Pixeleen'').

As usual it all gets the immaculate, almost science fiction sheen of production that you come to expect of any SD record. Becker's guitar lines are delightfully tasteful (though one does long for the odd Larry Carlton or Denny Dias lick of old) and their choice of session men - well-proven since as way back as The Royal Scam -is spectacularly intuitive. Check the beautifully cosmic sax on the title track.

So, despite a lightening of the general mood,it's business as usual and also available on the DVD-Audio 5.1 Surround Sound format. If only all other bands' business were this crisp, funky and grown-up. There's still only one Steely Dan...

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