The Faint – Danse Macabre (2001)

Saddle Creek Records ■ LBJ 180
(Originally LBJ-37 on same label)
Released August 21, 2001
(This compilation released November 1, 2012)
Engineered and Produced by Mike Mogis and The Faint




Side One: Side Two:
  1. Agenda Suicide
  2. Glass Danse
  3. Total Job
  4. Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat
  5. Violent
  1. Your Retro Career Melted
  2. Posed to Death
  3. The Conductor
  4. Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen

Though it ended up one of the most brief hiatuses I’ve taken, early June’s was instigated by a work-related trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which happens to be right next door to Omaha, Nebraska. I currently live in an area where there are barely handfuls of record stores for a good 60+ miles, so hitting a larger college town (like I myself used to live in) was a blessing and a curse: I flew back with a shoulder bag filled with vinyl, and a suitcase veritably lined with CDs. While there, I took occasion to visit the store that the Saddle Creek label operates there in their hometown, inspired more than anything by the associations it has with Cursive, a fellow fan of whom I discovered I was working with (who also shared a love for The Format and a handful of others–and ended up passing me a copy of Cursive’s The Ugly Organ on green vinyl!). While I was in there, I did walk out with a copy of Cursive’s I Am Gemini, having failed to pick it up already, and (rather amusingly) did finally get a copy of Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac, an album by a band from the area I last lived in, but thought I should really pick up a record the label itself put out (I Am Gemini being on CD). The Ugly Organ wasn’t there (and, as mentioned, I serendipitously acquired it later in the same trip anyway!), so I wandered about until I ran into this.

I remember around the time this album came out, the band was pretty darn hot around the internet, though I was still in my formative musical explorations. I did glance at them, but moved on before anything took hold, eventually picking a copy of the album up on CD many years later. When this edition was released, I first stumbled into the CD/DVD version last year, and suddenly realized I’d really missed something. That was what pushed me to add to it this vinyl version–it’s actually the “deluxe edition” which contains not only a second 12″ of bonus tracks (remixes and b-sides) but also that self-same 2xCD+DVD set I already have, albeit in far more inconvenient format for a portable medium.

When it originally came out, the record used a different cover, but the rights to use it were thoroughly rejected–even more than a decade later, which is why it continues to use the cover above. Though this new cover was used for the later pressings, for this deluxe reissue it was re-tinted in neon pink instead of its original blood red. It’s a weird colour, very eye-catching, and actually feels more appropriate in a strange sort of way–though the red, black, and white colour scheme of the original issue fit nicely with the cynical overtones of the record and its goth-y vibe, the pink hits on the fact that those are not the whole, and it’s a ridiculously danceable record (or so I would guess, being as I lack the skill at such activities, personally).

“Agenda Suicide” was the lead single, and in keeping with old habits (though maybe not The Faint’s or Saddle Creek’s), it leads the album. A low-end loop introduces the track with a kind of eye-wink darkness, rumbling along electronically through its set of notes, a palm-muted rattle of guitar from Dapose and then a pulsing four-on-the-floor drum machine beat are layered on top, finalized with actual drums, alternating snare and bass with regular hi-hat. Flavouring it all is a knowingly “off” set of notes from keys that seem to be poking at the outer edges of the sound, bouncing from one edge or corner to the next and then repeating. Todd Fink (née Baechle, though he was still Baechle at the time) pulls his voice out of the playbook from the goth-inflected post punk–think early Robert Smith, nervous, half-bored, very cynical–his verses are split by the sizzling keys that mark one of the track’s great hooks, leaning menacingly forward and more confidently spread across the track than the pulses and scatter of notes that precede them. The last time these chords strike down, the keys spiral downward to make room for the chorus: “Our work makes pretty little homes”, which is followed by the cold sound of drum machine thumping and even more mechanical guitar rattling. This leads to the full realization of those menacing chords, harmonized with a higher set of keys. The nihilistic, cynical, depressed description of modern societal monotony–“Agenda suicide, drones work hard before they die/And give up on pretty little homes”–is realized by the track, but it’s matched to an absurdly insistent, danceable beat that just makes you want to move and have fun, perhaps in spite of the repellent nature of the cubicle life described. The musical “interstitials” that split the chorus are later slowed down to a breakdown-like pounding that somehow turns the track into one that almost recommends headbanging, without ever losing that edge of life-sucking darkness it’s there to describe. Don’t mistake this of course–the track is descriptive and musically appropriate, but it’s finagled into the shape of a ridiculously enjoyable one, despite all of that.

In contrast to the building, hinting, and layering of “Agenda Suicide”, “Glass Danse” gives only a few beats warning before it launches full bore into its brash, loud dancey beat. It moves constantly and puts Todd’s voice behind an electronic device–something in the vein of a megaphone–that distances it from that straight up oomp-tss of the verse’s instruments. The lead-up to the chorus loses the filter between him and listener, doubles the beat’s speed, but closes camp around both, close to the ground and ready to spring, a launch that is fueled by the sputtering of metallic keys, which finally ignite and take off. Coming after “Agenda Suicide” it functions as a refusal to let the beat slow or drop in any way, while maintaining enough variety to keep things really very interesting.

“Total Job” takes that boiling heat and drags it down to a simmer, but a persistent one. The tempo is down, but the energy behind it is untouched. Todd and Jacob Thiele use the doubled tones of the metallic key sound to give the track the most clear and focal melody the album has in its first three tracks, while Joel Petersen’s bass makes itself more known than before. A chopped female vocal sample is sprinkled across the track, while Todd’s voice is given a vaguely demonic filter toward the end of the track–but only on a background double track of them. It functions mostly as connective tissue between the burst of “Glass Danse” and its nearby neighbor, “Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat”.

That follow up track is introduced with a frog-croak like keyboard hook and a clatter of drum machine that suggests a thin, demo-ish sound, except that it’s the lead in to live drumming from Todd’s brother Clark, and the croaking keys are now joined by a high-pitched whine of companion keys, which shift upward and tighten at their peak to drop the tempo back down. Stereo-pan right-left hopping drum machine and keys are the canvas across Clark’s frame of restrained drumming. Todd’s filtered, vaguely sarcastic voice drops to a whisper to lead in the chorus: “Just let the poison spill/Spurt from your throat/Hiss like steam–” and that anticipatory drop of everything gives the song back its initial roar of energy: “‘Cause the pressure’s unreal/I’m not saying that it’s not/You’re causing a scene/You’re wearing out that note/You scream until it’s gone, gone, gone…” It’s an apt lyric for the music–or apt music for the lyric. Like much darker electronic-focused music, it has tinges of the machine and the song is like a machine hissing out steam, until the pressure is released in the chorus. Fascinatingly, the song features a more raw bassline from Joel, and moments where Clark drums in isolation, while Todd’s voice is at its most distorted and altered. The downward strokes of that hook are, it seems, more unreal than the pressure to which the lyrics refer–yow, but they are catchy!

Unlike the CD release, the vinyl (both the original and this deluxe edition) place “Violent” at the end of side one as track 5 instead of penultimate track 8. “Violent” is actually the longest song on the album, the only one clocking past five minutes. Instrumentally, it’s semi-unique–while Gretta Cohn’s cello appears on “Total Job”, too, it’s most apparent here when it is alone with Todd’s voice and a drum machine. More keys and electronic sounds–cracking rhythms, shuffling hiss and rattle–hide in the corners, but even when the song shifts gears and Todd’s voice goes “Transformer”, Dapose, Clark, and Joel remain rather silent–Dapose’s guitar does appear briefly as a short lead after this, but disappears after a few bars again. Clark’s hi-hat playing does come in a bit before the song attempts to tear itself apart, stuttering, starting, stopping and shuddering before returning as a skronking low-end key line. It’s joined by a fuzzy industrial metal beat and hi-hats that all skitter like a skipping CD until they become a single repeated beat. Then it all comes back together as a song centered around that grungy, bassy keyboard lick, with sustained horror-esque high-pitched keys carry a haunting melody in the background in keeping with the slow, low strains of cello. It only makes sense, I suppose, that the longest song be, in effect, a pair of songs smashed and converted into a single one.

Side Two opens with another scorcher, “Your Retro Career Melted”. An odd choice, in a way, for a band that is openly and obviously drawing from the past–but sung with enough venomous sarcasm that it manages itself quite well. The horror and sci-fi inflections continue with a squealing hook of keys around the pounding beat that blends so well into the primary keyboard melodies. The catchiest chorus and use of electronic voice filters by far, “Your retro career m-m-m-melted” is repeated over a tireless beat. Squealing and stabbing keyboards get to back Todd and Clark for a moment, just before the chorus returns for its last run, before stretching out over the last few minutes, ending with the electronic filtration of a bell-curved singing of “Melt-e-e-ed…” closes it all.

“Posed to Death” is rather strange, coming on like a vaguely tribalistic set of non-verbal vocalizations over a  2-and-4 beat, but Clark’s entrance turns the thumping keyboards Todd’s voice is mimicking into a back-and-fourth full four beats, until Todd steps back for Joel’s bassline. Now the beat is a body-moving of a 1-a2-a3-a4 swing. Distorted keys crunch away and leave a wash of disttortion in their wake, a wall of static behind the song’s hypnotic beat. It closes with Dapose harmonizing his guitar with the keyboards, a new sound for the record.

“The Conductor” has a fantastic intro: keyboards attuned to the slight fuzz of distortion on a sound somewhere between xylophone and piano, let ring just long enough to mimic an echo, hints of harpsichord-like twang making it almost like a moment of suspense in a mid-period horror flick, before a funereal beat backs an expansion of this marching melody, flattening with the weight of the louder, fuller chords of ominous, 80s-horror threat. Percussion backs this and turns it–without changing the melodic portions–into a dance movement. The song is haunting and dark in a new way, shadows and the kind of darkness that could be a room, a large room, or even open space. When Todd takes over the verse completely and his voice takes the fore–takes control, if you will (as he himself sings)–it becomes something closer to the merely dark-edged crunch of the Faint’s usual sound. It’s fuzzed by Joel’s bass, spiced by blistering Dapose leads, and propelled by keyboards–the chorus fades it away to keys, drum machine and Todd’s voice repeating “Control, control, control, control, control…” The bell-like xylopiano of the intro lingers over it all, keeping it haunting and mysterious, even more so as the beat drops out from under it to let it play alone and fade off.

Gretta Cohn’s cello opens “Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen” almost alone, and where it’s flavoured by keys, it is only that–flavour on her strong draws of bow. Then the jittering of a pounding beet against a sheet of metallic noise carves out a mechanized chunk of the track, tailed by a wobbling fuzz of grungey keys. It’s the most downtempo and downbeat track on the record. The beat is the strongest, clearest part of the primary band’s sound (Cohn acting in a secondary role, after all), with Todd’s voice again hiding at a distance, and even the keys burbling around Clark’s drums. For all the interesting layers of sound, it’s a sparse-sounding track in contrast to the uncontrolled burst of movement that composes the rest of the record. Certainly, this makes it rather fitting as a final track, though instead of the misleading final fade of piano and cello, distorted keys take the final moments for their own.



Side Three: Side Four:
  1. Take Me to the Hospital
  2. Mote
  3. Dust (featuring Bright Eyes)
  4. Falling Out of Love at This Volume
  1. The Conductor [Thin White Duke Remix]
  2. Glass Danse [Out Hud Remix]


Sides 3 and 4 are a collection of tracks from various places (a Saddle Creek compilation, the Mote/Dust non-album single, the remix album, the German version of the “Agenda Suicide” single, and the original German limited edition 2CD release of the album). “Mote” is a Sonic Youth cover, while “Dust” features “Bright Eyes”–aka Conor Oberst, a former member of the Faint, and Mike Mogis, who co-produced Danse Macabre. “Falling Out of Love at This Volume” is indeed a Bright Eyes cover, and “Take Me to the Hospital” is the only “completely Faint” track (the other two obviously being remixes).


Sadly, “Take Me to the Hospital” is not a misnamed cover of the Replacements’ “Take Me Down to the Hospital” (which I’d still like to hear them cover, just for curiosity’s sake). It is actually an interesting, stuttery track, that doesn’t quite have the slick goth-inflections of Danse Macabre, but has a stammering dance of a chorus that spells out the final word of the title. It’s a bit more intimate as a track, and points a bit more toward the group’s other work.

“Mote” is fuzz-loaded, with squeaky-tape rewind noises and pounding beats, perhaps the closest relative of the album proper to appear amongst the bonus tracks, barring the remixes of tracks actually from the album, despite being a cover.

“Dust” is a little more akin to a Depeche Mode-style dance music, with the kind of chunky synths that are so recognizable, but built on live drums. There are Faint touches for sure, but it’s mostly more readily accessible and cleaner than Danse Macabre.

“Falling Out of Love at This Volume” is odd, as, despite his former membership in the band, Oberst’s music is not in keeping with the rest of the Faint’s sound, but the band predictably “remedies” this (as would be almost inevitable in a band that is more keyboards than guitars). Interestingly, the over-echoed, watery effect on Todd’s voice does bring it closer to the demo-style recording they’re covering.

Thin White Duke’s remix of “The Conductor” is a severely re-designed version of the track. It moves to a more standard dance beat, and Todd’s electronically manipulated recitation of “Control” forms the central hook of essentially the entire song, even being layered over itself in various iterations, almost to the exclusion of the rest of his words. It’s something like the expectations of remixes, but it’s very much well done, even with its humourously stereotypical inclusion of strings.

Out Hud’s remix of “Glass Danse”, in contrast, is only subtly different from the original track, functioning closer to a remix in the “remixed and remastered” sense than the “make it their own” one. Of course, I cannot help but mention that I know Out Hud primarily for the fact that they did an early split with !!!, a band that actually shared three members with Out Hud at the time. Heck, that split was released on Gold Standard Labs (GSL) who released not only !!!’s first album (the self-titled !!!), but also the Mote/Dust Faint single, and a few records that will appear later in my collection–as a label that was co-owned by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. It’s still a solid remix and they do make it somewhat more their own as it progresses, and in doing so actually keep it more like a Faint song than Thin White Duke did with his remix.

I bought this album very deliberately–it’s insanely catchy, particularly in its first half, but spread (and paced) nicely across both sides, or its full (CD) length. Finding the right space to suggest this, as a goth-tinged, crunchy dance album–I don’t know. It was pretty big in its time if I’m not mistaken, but to whom I would recommend it unwaveringly, I’m not sure. I mean, I’d recommend anything I like to anyone, because it’s all good music, but the taste that would make me say, “Ah, listen to the Faint!”? I don’t know.

Perhaps you should go and check it out (you should), and maybe return data so that I can assemble knowledge of what that taste is.

Or just check them out regardless (yep).

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (1982)

Warner Bros. Records ■ 23696-1

Released October 29, 1982

Engineered by Roger Nichols (Chief), Daniel Lazerus (Overdubs)
Assistant Engineering by Wayne Yurgelun, Mike Morongell, Cheryl Smith, Robin Lane
Mastered by Bob Ludwig

“Note: The songs on this album represent certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up in the remote suburbs of a northeastern city during the late fifties and early sixties, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build.

D.F.”


Side One: Side Two:
  1. I.G.Y.
  2. Green Flower Street
  3. Ruby Baby
  4. Maxine
  1. New Frontier
  2. The Nightfly
  3. The Goodbye Look
  4. Walk Between Raindrops

While I definitively eschew any such categorizations as best I possibly can, I remain fascinated with the lines that are drawn around any work or artist to render it “untouchable” by certain groups. A work or an artist may be unmentionable to fit comfortably under the umbrella of “serious music fan” or “metalhead” or any of the other myriad communities associated with music–some very carefully defined, and others so loose as to be questionably meaningful. I like a lot of artists that cross those lines quite heavily–the first albums I ever owned mystify people to this day, and the first mix-tape I ever had made for me (by my father, partly from my requests, and partly from his own insertions) was a slew of Dr. Demento tracks from various decades and styles (“The Martian Hop”, “The Cockroach That ate Cincinnatti”, etc) mixed with Paul Revere and the Raiders (“Cherokee Nation”), the Coasters (“Poison Ivy”, “Mother in Law”, “Yakety Yak”), Tommy James and the Shondells (“Crimson & Clover”, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”), and a few odd other tracks I’ll occasionally recall out of the blue.

For a time in and around middle school, my taste remained confined by the distance I kept from my father’s turntable and thus the questionable volume of music available to someone who didn’t look to spend limited allowance-type funds on it. The local library had its share of odds and ends, and I checked some out from them here and there, but two in particular ended up sticking with me for quite a while, as my non-existent owned music meant whatever I had checked out was what I was listening to, short of hitting the radio. Those two albums were–bear with me now, and feel free to look back at other albums I reviewed (and thus own) and drop jaws or shake heads as needed–Billy Joel’s Storm Front and Donald Fagen’s Kamakiriad. These (and the few albums I would gradually purchase) were strangely important: listening to the same songs from each over and over would have been tiresome with the limited (and tedious) programming capabilities of my cheap (discman-style!) CD player at the time, so I ended up listening to both albums straight through many times.
In some circles, it’s probably desirable to disavow my love for Storm Front, but that tends to be unsurprising to anyone who has spoken with even mildly devoted music people (though there are, of course, always exceptions). Kamakiriad fascinates me that much more: Fagen is of course best known for his work with his primary band, that which is defined by co-conspirator Walter Becker–Steely Dan. There are ripples of discontent surrounding the group, even amongst more serious music people, whether it be for the “appropriation” of jazz, the purported sterility of carefully expert and tight production and recordings, or even the “flaccid/soft rock” sensibility many have regarding them (including, if memory serves, George Carlin ¹). It’s strange, really–the band was named for a dildo (!) in the writings of William S. Burroughs (!!), and the lyrics are notoriously clever (maybe even obnoxiously so), often sardonic or dark. Sure–the music tends to be pretty relaxed and “smooth”, and the performances and recordings are absurdly tight, but the criticism does not easily bear out.
The Nightfly was purchased some years ago, unquestionably, because of my love for Kamakiriad. I had never heard it before, and may or may not have heard any of the songs that were released to radio (and later repeated on “classic rock” stations), and it was only $3 anyway. I listened to it once or twice at the time, but didn’t run out into the streets proselytizing. It wasn’t until it was repackaged (with Kamakiriad, and the much later Morph the Cat) as The Nightfly Trilogy that I stood up and took notice. Then, I had lovingly packaged (CD) versions of each album (in some of my favourite packaging ever) and time and ease to get to know each.
It was because of that time that revisiting this album like I did was both a familiar comfort and a pleasure.
The first thing I ever recognized about the album is how appropriate it is for certain environmental conditions: the first light, chiming tones of “I.G.Y.” (clarified on the inner sleeve as “International Geophysical Year” cannot ever seem to sound as right as they do in a comfortable, dark room. Sitting, alone, together, reclined–it doesn’t matter, it just sets the tone clearly, with a lovely synthetic intro where a backing bed of rising and falling cascading notes sits behind more definitive notes that seem to spike upward from an otherwise smooth surface. It turns to a swinging beat, horns enter, and it becomes a ridiculously catchy tune, marrying Fagen’s voice to a chorus of female backing singers in a wistful, nostalgic chorus. The track is fascinating aurally: it’s perfectly balanced in pitches and tones, yet seems to keep to a narrow range somehow. It’s the ideal energy for the tone of the track–defining the tone of the album as a whole. The fabled pin-point accuracy of both men who lead Steely Dan is apparent–even the parts that aren’t electronic sound as if they could be, but they hold the right warmth and variability that marks them as physically present acoustic instruments.
I always imagine (wrongly) that “Green Flower Street” was one of the album’s singles (instead, “I.G.Y.” and “New Frontiers” hold that honour), and feel that I can be forgiven this–keys tug at the song as hi-hat marks the time to keep it going. Bass dances along the back ground as keys phase and warp from channel to channel, and lightly played, muted guitar notes jump back and forth the same way. The guitar and keys are somewhat odd, a bit cut off, approaching staccato (readily meeting it in the case of the guitar part), acting as the primary hook and melody, but leaving so much space and riding so heavily on repetition that the restless movement of the bass pulls that old trick of really moving the song’s melodic progressions, but does it without being at all obvious. A rather tasty guitar lead is met with the snarled and curly notes of a brief key lead that is reminiscent of the kind of work I personally love in earlier Prince material–dense and funky, wrapped tightly around itself. Dig that sudden exclamation point ending, too.
I’m prone to unnecessary elaboration for sure, but it’s actually quite appropriate that I brought up the Coasters earlier–many of their hits were the writing work of Leiber and Stoller, who also wrote the only cover on this album: “Ruby Baby”. While the note on the inner sleeve points toward reminiscing (as does the cover), Fagen molds the classic hit into his own style, unquestionably, arranging it into more instrumental and drifting, electronic-leaning sound the album runs on, while maintaining the flavour of the original Drifters recording. It becomes extended, playing with improvisational (if probably pre-determined) instrumental stretches, and handclaps and crowd noises that are subtle enough that, on casual listen, they just feed the feeling of the track’s placement as drawn from a time closer to the exclusively live domain of music, rather than seeming like an intended faux-live recording.
Side one closes with “Maxine”, which drops the drum beat to a steady 3/4, warm and slow like I would immediately imagine from many a late night radio would play. It’s relaxed in an album that is innately relaxed, using keys that sound more like known keyboard-based instruments. It’s the breeziest track by far, though it is actually the third shortest, oddly enough.
“New Frontier” was an excellent choice for a single, no question. Reverberating as if underwater, keys thoughtfully and dreamily establish something of the melody, while an electronic beat bounces out cheerfully. Harmonica seems bizarrely out of place–but only if you stop and think: integrated into the whole, it somehow functions. The keyboard lines that introduce the chorus have an excellently suspicious quality about them, as if something is not quite right here, though everything remains as cheerful and enjoyable as they were when they began. That bouncing electronic beat is fascinating: it runs straight through the track, but is lost, almost ignored, as if it’s being followed entirely by accident rather than design. Double-tracking the chorus vocals is a clever touch, and puts just the right kind of tonal “oomph” onto them, to bring them above Fagen’s normally easy tones.

The title track embraces the image on the cover fully, as Fagen takes on the role of “Lester the Nightfly”, WJAZ DJ and host in Baton Rouge. He’s an amalgamation of Fagen’s remembered late night DJs, taking conspiracy calls, talking of his own life, and playing classic jazz tunes–indeed, he describes the show as “with jazz and conversation, from the foot of Mount Belzoni, sweet music, tonight the night is mine, late night ’til the sun comes through the skyline”. Semi-spoken verses are from Lester’s point of view, over steady cowbells and heavily played key chords, that have just enough spin on them to take on a bit of a funky hook. Female vocalists emulate the station’s call sign interstitial, sweet and clear, with a catchy emphasis on rhythm, jumping up and down in pitch sharply, but cleanly. The drums drive the trick in that same background fashion way, but hold themselves more apparent.

“The Goodbye Look” seems slightly out of place as the penultimate track–combined with its predecessor, it might even have turned into a sort of strange conceptual album (as opposed to a thematic one), suggesting the “goodbye look” given to a DJ as a signal that their time is shortly up–whether literal or just for effect. It’s actually a sort of paranoid tale of hiding away on an island instead, with a mention of steel drums that comes through in the unusual choice of synthesized sounds that resemble steel drums, later met with the sound of more distinctly synthesized steel drums, which is a peculiar union to be sure. The relaxed pace of the verses is hurried at its end until the staccato vocalizations of the chorus, which is where the most steel drum-like sounds appear, offsetting that sudden rush of terseness in an interesting way.

Instead, the album closes with “Walk Between Raindrops”, which rides organ-styled keyboards and walking bass through a pretty rapid and upbeat tune, somewhat unexpected after the relaxation of the midsection of side two, especially at the end of the album. It’s a bit slight and peculiar in this place, especially at its call out of Miami (!) that is followed by a smoothed out organ solo. It fits in its way of course–it’s an original song companion to the cover of “Ruby Baby”, recalling the kind of pop tracks that Fagen would’ve enjoyed in his childhood, rather than the actual cover of or reference to them.

The Nightfly‘s rather odd legacy is that of an album that has been used over the years as a test of sound systems thanks to its ultra-clear, clean production and playing. Certainly, this adds a lot of credence to the declaration that Fagen’s music is somewhat sterile, as achieving the status of ideal “index” recording to test a system–a demonstration disc, even.

While a laudable achievement, there’s something else to be said, in that all the subjective assessments of things like emotional content or flavour are difficult to render so complete and definitive: there’s unquestionably emotional content here, it’s just displayed less in the spontaneous burst of unrehearsed or knowingly loose playing, and more in the choice of tones, playstyles, genres, sounds, and all of the other detailed components used to construct it. Maybe it is a more “mechanical” assembly, but that doesn’t preclude creativity or emotion–it simply leaves it with pre-defined places to be assigned and then experienced. Any of that would be theoretical, were it not for this album, which most definitely confirms any of those thoughts has its place in reality: the album’s feel and sound are very engaging on even an emotional level, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the way Fagen puts music together.

¹This is a companion to Bill Hicks’ dismissal of a Judas Priest fan as a “future gas station attendant”–in context, it’s necessary for the joke (which is part of a much larger bit), but is vaguely dumbfounding in the context of a man who was also responsible for saying, “Let’s say that rock and roll is the devil’s music…at least he fuckin’ jams.” Someone who appreciates things that “rock” casually dismissing Priest seems to be drawing pretty arbitrary lines to me. Not that appreciation is necessitated, but–ah, well.