Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sunken Condos, Donald Fagen

Fans of the 'Dan should be forgiven if they presumed Donald Fagen's Sunken Condos would expand upon the faux-cheerful post-apocalyptic landscape of 2003's Everything Must Go. There is some of that panographic perspective in this solo outing of his, most explicitly in “Memorabilia.” The singer excitedly catalogs a pedestrian inventory of trash, stowed away in the wake of America's Nuclear Dawn. In the main, however, the global signals of collapse are but a dim shadow of what is taking place inside the hearts and minds of Fagen's tortured male narrators. “They may fix the weather in the world,” claims one such, “but tell me: what's to be done about the weather in my head?”

This is an admittedly self-induced state for these fellas, most of whom seem to be desperately clinging to, or reminiscing about, failed relationships with energetic girls much too young for them — a not-uncommon motif running through the shared ouevre of Steely Dan/Fagen. The experienced listener expects this, along with the locked-down back-beat, the blues-piano progressions and the too-ironically-bright-to-be-comfortable (to my ears, at least) digital production. The experienced listener also tunes in for the subtle surprises, which Sunken Condos delivers in “Good Stuff” — another Cheerful Ode To The Hipster-Goon: a Prohibition-era enforcer in this case, who resolves his romantic troubles using the tactics of his profession.

I gradually fell deeply in love with this album, so my take on it is closer to this guy's (he hears evocations of the criminally underrated Gaucho; “Good Stuff” is definitely in the lineage of “Glamour Profession,” another favourite of mine). But most listeners, I suspect, will probably pitch in with this guy. If you think that might be you, do yourself a favour and download “Good Stuff.” If that grabs you, try “Slinky Thing” and “Miss Marlene.” Sit with those three for a while, and see if you don't go back and hit, “Complete Album.” It's not a bad soundtrack to have, particularly for those of us getting into the habit of bailing out our basements.

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