Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Steely Dan: Can't Buy a Thrill [ABC, 1972]
How about that--a good album with two hit singles attached. And as you might expect of New York natives who reside in the City of the Angels, both brim with ambivalence: "Do It Again," a catchy modified mambo with homogenized vocals that divert one's attention from its tragic tale of a loser so compulsive he can't get himself hanged, and "Reelin' in the Years," a hate song to a professed genius. Think of the Dan as the first post-boogie band: the beat swings more than it blasts or blisters, the chord changes defy our primitive subconscious expectations, and the lyrics underline their own difficulty--as well as the difficulty of the reality to which they refer--with arbitrary personal allusions, most of which are ruses. A