Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Steely Dan, "Glamour Profession" (1980)


Can it be that I have made my peace with Gaucho, the last Steely Dan album until 2000? Maybe. Thanks to an oddly insistent shuffle, I became more intimately acquainted with the longest song on it, "Glamour Profession," which clocks in at a breezy 7:30. Vaguely hostile when one notices the words ("It's a glamour profession / The L.A. concession"), it is otherwise sweet and smooth as can be. My objections before were something about "too antiseptic"—the struggle actually started with Aja, a few years earlier, and continued with Donald Fagen's first solo, Nightfly (now my favorite of the bunch). I hear a peculiar and distinct willfulness between the bitter tenor of the words (which I tend to believe, as that's long been the stock in trade) and the ultra-buffed sheen. It speaks to me of counting slowly to 10 before acting, of not getting mad but getting even, of never letting them see you sweat. Living well is the best revenge, but there also seems to be some quantity of flashpoint anger held in check. It's unnerving. It's not exactly happy music though you could probably play it in a mall (maybe it has been played in malls, where's ASCAP/BMI when you need them?). It washes down like a fresh smoothie, but what are these knots and points? The notes feel chosen so deliberately, the flecks of guitar figures and fat sax lines dropped in, the shivery touch of the piano keys feeling for its lines across the structure, all as if to make some unpleasant point. There's something passive-aggressive about it. It's as rejecting in its way as the contemporaneous punk-rock, which they so elaborately stood apart from (because what else could they do?). So when it starts to let go and soar, on its own terms, at about the 5:20 point, it's really nothing less than exhilarating.

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