It seems the younger generation has rediscovered Steely Dan.
Just in time for my good friend, Jon Zeeman, to release an original song in their style, with his Steely Dan Tribute band – The Expanding Man.
Now there is a whole book about Steely Dan’s rediscovery by a new generation that is covered in this Atlantic review.
In hindsight, Steely Dan’s Zelig-like presence in sample-based hip-hop looks like a harbinger of the band’s current renaissance: A duo that was one of the most polarizing acts in rock even at its peak, in the 1970s, has lately acquired an army of new fans, many of them remarkably young.
Pappademas tries out several theories to explain the Danaissance’s timing. The most compelling of them is the idea that their songs, full of gallows humor and wry disillusionment, resonate with a generation raised on crashing economies and a climate crisis. “Donald and Walter’s songs of monied decadence, druggy disconnection, slow-motion apocalypse, and self-destructive escapism seemed satirically extreme way back when; now they seem prophetic,” he writes. “We are all Steely Dan characters now.”
For those weary of the “rockism”-versus-“poptimism” debates of the past couple of decades—and who isn’t?—Steely Dan offers a welcome escape from the reductive opposition between rock as Promethean self-expression and pop as a big-tent pleasure center. The band didn’t mind being dismissed by the most doctrinaire rock partisans: “soulless, and by its calculated nature antithetical to what rock should be,” as a Rolling Stone review of Aja summed up the brief against them. At the same time, Steely Dan’s music is unapologetically snobbish, flouting the “everything is great” ethos of extreme poptimism.
A band that charts an idiosyncratic path ends up acquiring an eclectic audience, this one united by a tenacious devotion to the work of a pair of artists who were themselves nothing if not devoted.