It seems a lot of people–maybe even all of us to some degree–choose what music to listen to not on the basis of what it actually sounds like, but by how well it reinforces a desired self-image. Many who crave to be seen as urbane, sophisticated jazz aficionados, for instance, haven’t likely given Johnny Cash a fair listen. And there are plenty of tattoed rock-and-rollers who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to the CSO at Orchestra Hall–even though they’d probably enjoy the music much more than those affluent suburbanites who yawn in the expensive seats, struggling to conceal boredom. So the level of disdain still expressed toward Steely Dan in some quarters should come as no surprise. Though their records are full of “fusion players” and various other musically incorrect details, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen long ago achieved a level of seamless popcraft that latter-day scramblers like Elvis Costello, Prince, and Matthew Sweet can only aspire to. The new Fagen solo album, Kamikeriad (with bass, guitar, and production by Becker, who also cowrote one song), sounds for all the world like a new Dan album, and might as well be one; the lyrics are as adolescent as ever, but intelligently punchy riffs and pumping-yet-relaxed grooves abound. The current Steely Dan tour (their first since ’74!) will offer post-Pretzel Logic material live for the first time, and it should be an exciting look back at a long, quirky career. But if you’re just too arty and cool to give them a chance, that’s your business. Sunday, 8 PM, Poplar Creek Music Theatre, Rts. 59 and 72 at the Northwest Tollway, Hoffman Estates; 559-1212 or 708-426-1222.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Laura Levine.