Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Steely Dan: Katy Lied [ABC, 1975]
Opening with an economic crash and closing with a smacked-out rumination about succor, betrayal, and Vietnam, the first side seems surprisingly sweet and lyrical--mostly by way of the Manhattan nostalgia of "Bad Sneakers" and the faithless passion of "Rose Darling," but also, and most tellingly, in the rumination. This is a matter of rhythm and timbre rather than verbal content--the music lets us know that their cynicism is no more a celebration of cynicism than their smack references are a celebration of smack, lets us know we can break the habit. By comparison the three skillful urban miniatures on side two seem thin and tight, never quite brought around by the more expansive emotions of "Your Gold Teeth II" (throw them out and see how they roll) and "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" ("Is better than the one I come from"). A-