Steely Dan – Don’t Take Me Alive (Live 2003) and Babylon Sister (Live 2000)

Steely Dan–Don’t Take Me Alive (Live 2003)

Steely Dan…I can never tell if they’re “taking the piss,” if at all, or if 95% of the time, or if always.  Of course they have amazing songs like Deacon Blue and Peg (“it’s your favorite foreign movie”…) but there are rather few songs by them that I can listen to without having some nagging suspicion in my mind, and this is one of them…that there’s some sort of running in-joke in the whole concept of the band that I’m not privvy to, like that Steely Dan developed as some sort of warped jazz-rock elevator music ironic/satirical art project that just happened to be particularly successful in the music industry and they ran with it, not letting most people in on the joke/art/satire/commentary aspect of the band.  Like some of Frank Zappa’s music, but rather than blatantly advertise the commentary, they buried it deep beneath their smooth jazz cabaret exterior, out of sight of up to 95% or more of their fans.

I mean…Steely Dan is sort of like Throbbing Gristle or the Swans in wielding and creating a sort of extreme element of musical aural attack/musical offense except their weapon isn’t noise it’s sort of this artificial-machine made-saccharine sweet-plastic smooth-granite cold machine sheen of sort of killer smoothness…like an artificial intelligence program is pumping out what are supposed to be “smooth” licks all day but it’s some sort of cognitive experiment too…kind of scary.

I feel like the music may be composed by some AI machine built at MIT in the 70s, hence the “Steely Dan” reference (look it up on Wikipedia)–they’re actually trying to tell us that the music is created by a machine, a machine pleasuring device in not strictly the physical sense but in the aural sense…maybe that’s the secret pun, they seem to be pretty super-intellectual, punny people, I’m sure the irony of the name “Steely Dan” as an artifical pleasuring device did not escape them at all during any part of their career but in fact was a founding principle/guiding force of the band.

That said, of course they are great musicians.  I like the sort of LA jazz rock sound, I slightly prefer that kind of sound on Joni Mitchell’s 70s albums like Court and Spark and Hissing of Summer Lawns (with Larry Carlton, etc), as it’s done so much more organically, a lot less elevator music-like, on those albums.  What would be great is if Joni Mitchell had a new album with Steely Dan as the backing band, yeah.

Steely Dan–Babylon Sister (Live 2000)

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