Musicians Can't Stop Debating Steely Dan

The Albini Effect

Photos (from left): Jason Isbell by David McClister, St. Vincent by Zackery Michael, Jenny Lewis by Stephen McGill

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Feb 8, 2023

Remember when we thought Elon Musk's Twitter takeover would dissolve the platform in a matter of weeks? Well, it's still kicking — and without it, we would have never gotten to have this latest wave of Steely Dan discourse.

Earlier this week, Steve Albini boldly deemed himself the "kind of punk who shits on Steely Dan" and the reverberations in the list of trending topics have not lost that number. Many renowned musicians have felt the need to clarify where they stand on the Dan.

To get you up to speed: St. Vincent and Jenny Lewis both fucking love Steely Dan. Meanwhile, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires seem to fall on the other side of the great divide, with Isbell joking that his wife hates the band so much that she's starting a fan club called the Albini Babies.

Laura Jane Grace also agrees with Albini, saying Steely Dan make "terrible fucking music." (The expletive is probably for emphasis rather than denoting the sexual act, but perhaps she believes both are true?)

The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman admitted to not knowing the full expanses of the Steely catalogue, but said he really likes most of the songs he knows. "Mainly I'm fascinated by their place in the rock music conversation," he noted. "It's unique."

Also on the Canadian side of things, Damian Abraham recalled once telling former WWE wrestler and current rapper Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) he didn't understand the hype. "I swear to god, I thought he was going to open the door and shove me [out] of that moving car," Abraham wrote.

Dan Wilson expressed his confusion at the intensity of people's negative feelings towards Steely Dan, calling their work "beautifully and lovingly made." He wondered, "Is it a 'try hard' thing?"

Wilson may have a point, since Albini seemed to classify the band as the second of two types of perfectionists. "One will prepare, revise and rehearse carefully, with intent, honing an idea to a keen edge, ready to cut the cloth of execution," he wrote. "The other makes other people responsible by saying, 'do it again,' until by chance they are satisfied, then take credit."

Wherever you side on the debate, it can safely be said that the Dan are divisive. And the Steely Dan cultural renaissance is alive and well — whether you like it or not. This writer personally appreciated that "Dirty Work" needle-drop on Euphoria, for the record.

See some of the Twitter discourse below.

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