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Sadly, A Case of The Emperor's New Clothes
on 12 August 2008
I'll start by nailing my colours to the mast. I am a fan. I have bought every Steely Dan and related solo release, plus other spin-offs, since Can't Buy A Thrill way back in 1972, when I was still in my old school. They are, or at least once were, the best band in the world. Ever. I've also had the great pleasure of seeing them live. But by a big margin this has to be the least interesting album to emerge from the whole Dan franchise.
I've observed over the years that many Steely Dan fans simply refuse to believe that Don and Walt are capable of serving up anything less than absolute perfection. And for a long while, that may just have been true. But the cracks have started appearing. Sadly, I just don't see where the euphoria for this new album comes from. I sense that it may be 'the Emperor's new clothes' syndrome at work.
I'd been looking forward to this new one for so long, but sadly Circus Money is just so ordinary. Whereas almost every track on Becker's first solo album 11 Tracks of Whack back in 1994 was brimful of originality, this is such a tired affair and most of the songs are so unmemorable. And on top of that, Walt sounds so disinterested. It's a largely one-paced affair, the reggae-lite arrangements are ultimately irritating (I just don't understand the comparisons with Haitian Divorce - that had verve and zip and, boy, it ROCKED) and, by and large, even the lyrics lack the Dan's normal bite. Give me "Surf and/or Die", "Cringemaker" "Hat Too Flat" "Down In the Bottom" and "Lucky Henry" over most of these cuts. I still listen to Tracks of Whack, 14 years on. I doubt that I'll be playing this new one in 14 weeks' time. Shame. Roll on the next Dan album, and hopefully a return to form.