STEELY DAN IS rock's equivalent of salt and vinegar chips -- loved or hated, but never, ever, met with a shrug. Often too smart for their own good -- heck, too good for their own good -- the white-boy jazz-funk duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen produced a string of classic albums in the 1970s, many consisting of music you felt as much as heard. While some critics railed that their music was too polished, too clean, even too perfect, the two racked up a rabidly loyal fan following across the musical spectrum. (For example, Bruce Springsteen and Anita Baker both list Royal Scam among their favorite albums of all time.)
But after 1980's Gaucho, the duo pulled a Rip Van Winkle and disappeared for 20 years. But now they're back, and if you hated them then, well, you're really going to hate them now, because they haven't changed a bit. However, if tight rhythms, exquisite musicianship and subversive lyrics sound like a welcome change to today's vulgarity and low standards, Two is for you.
If anything has changed, their lyrics are even creepier than before. Where "Hey Nineteen" spoke of lust for the barely-legal, "Cousin Dupree" casts a jaundiced eye at a (thankfully unrequited) quest for the decidedly illegal.