Donald Fagen, Funkmeister Supreme: You be the judge.
The PR for Donald Fagen’s new album, Sunken Condos, states, “From here on out, everything Donald does has to be funky,” and this is probably the most hilarious statement ever made by some record company suit, because this record is most definitely not funky. I should say before I really get into it, however, that I quite enjoy a number of Steely Dan tunes, and any band that names themselves after a dildo from a William Burroughs novel is ok in my book. But I have never found Fagen’s solo stuff to be of any interest, and this newest album contains most of the reasons why I don’t. With Steely Dan, even though it’s well documented that the ‘band’ used slick studio hacks vs. full time members, there was always sarcasm and wit to balance out the surgical precision of the songs and the crystal clear production. With Fagen’s solo stuff it seems to me he tries too hard to be clever, not just with the lyrics (which seem tired and forced) but with the whole jazz/rock end result. Steely Dan were effortlessly smooth; Fagan solo is not.
The songs here are competent, non-threatening, and pleasant and about as funky as Barry Manilow singing Smokey Robinson covers. Cool cover though.
I’ll leave you with a quote I spotted on the old interweb the other day:
“Why were you playing the same song over and over for an hour? Turn that shit off!!”
UPDATE: I completed this post after listening to it just a couple of times. A mistake, because I’ve actually come to enjoy the album in a guilty pleasure kid of a way. I still don’t think it’s ‘funky’, but that’s just my take. My definition of ‘funky’ is early ’70’s James Brown and Temptations, Funkadelic, Sly Stone, Rose Royce, Curtis Mayfield and The Meters. I guess Donald Fagan’s new one could be considered ‘Groovy’, but I stand by my original assertion that is is not funky. It’s growing on me as a whole, though, and that took me by surprise.
UPDATE #2: Ok, it’s funky, but in a 70’s porn movie kind of way. Not necessarily a bad thing, just more “bow chicka bow wow” vs the “wackawackawacka” stuff. Like, “Hey ladies, someone order a pizza here? Well here’s your pizza, and here’s yer pepperoni!”
Know what I mean? As sexy, and as subtle, as a brick to the head. Icky, but pretty funny, and much better than a cold bath with someone you dislike.