The Steely Dan album Donald Fagen calls a “piece of shit”

donald fagen

Many rock stars have made fun of other people, and some have even made fun of themselves, but only one has made fun of the rock ‘n’ roll genre as a whole. “I don’t like rock music, to be frank,” said Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, rock ‘n’ roll’s anti-hero who is a member of a covert jazz band. I think I once heard Nirvana, and I know David Byrne. However, I find anything meant to stir up large crowds of people to be politically offensive because anthemic rock music is intrinsically fascist.

For someone who makes his career in that field, it’s a brave move. However, Fagen is always “just being honest.” But it’s always “just being honest,” old Fagen. He frequently finds his discography offensive. He had said, “I don’t listen to our old records, but my general feeling is humiliation if I happen to hear one on the radio.”

Still, more than just the band’s early discography troubled him. When Steely Dan almost unintentionally resumed touring back in 2013, it was reported that their most recent album, the bland Everything Must Go from 2003, was oddly missing from every setlist. But this mystery didn’t linger for very long. When Fagen was questioned by Jeff Niesel about why they gave up on the record, he quickly quipped: “We don’t play any of that piece of shit. Are you kidding me?”

The album is still the only one by Steely Dan to not receive a gold record in the US. It is understandable why. The only reason it’s a bad record is that it’s not good enough to be anything else. Fagen acknowledged this himself. He called it, ironically, a “piece of shit” and “underrated.” There were no good songs for the band to perform live, even in the “fascist” guise of a rock concert.

Although it may seem like a strange assessment, he essentially hits the mark. The sad irony lies in the demise of the Walter and Becker collaboration. They deemed the album too subpar to perform live. However, it was still good enough for critics and fans to ignore with a modicum of contempt. The album just had a bland blandness about it that somehow reflected the band’s image.

It lacks pretty much everything that made Steely Dan a great band, but they are so good that you hardly notice. It lacks the luscious hooks of their “humiliating” early work. “Cousin Dupree” lacks the comic controversy of clever postmodernism. It dominated the discourse of their comeback album, Two Against Nature, which arrived three years earlier.

We were the enemy of punk bands everywhere… where are they now?” joked Fagen after the album’s release. Even though he considers himself the master of “irony,” their heartfelt farewell lacked a little punk. But the fact that they didn’t care is very punk in and of itself.

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