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Sunday, November 08, 2015

Steely Dan: the band you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite

Now that music's out there in the cloud, rather than over there on your shelf, it's harder than ever to decide what you feel like hearing.

Now that we have unlimited supply behind a tiny display window, we are more reliant than ever on the names that our memory just happens to shuffle to the front of mind.

I wouldn't describe Steely Dan as my favourite band but they are the act whose music I reach for – or maybe that should be click for – more than any other.

Why should that be?

The sound of the records they made in the 1970s doesn't date.

They have a pop catchiness that falls just short of being ingratiating. It helps that their singles weren't big hits so they're passed over by the algorithms responsible for programming most radio.

The performances are detached enough to match whatever mood I happen to be in. None of their songs seem conspicuously happy or sad. They're all just faintly amused.

And since they kept their own pictures off their covers, giving them over instead to cryptic illustrations and curious archive photographs, there's no personality to get in the way.

They're the band that fills the time when I don't know what I want to hear, the band I can eat between meals without spoiling my appetite.