“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” lifts its intro from Horace Silver (not the last time Donald Fagen would get nailed for such a theft) but transcends that possible beginning, likely more of an affectation, with a wonderfully enigmatic tune and classic bridge. A decent rock tune, it trades in its acoustic guitar for horns and funky scratching on “Night By Night”; luckily, the guitar solo cooks. Speaking of funky, that word sticks out like two sore thumbs on “Any Major Dude Will Tell You”—the only other song we know outside of Genesis that mentions a squonk. It’s one of those “classic” Steely Dan songs that turns off their detractors, but we can’t say that about the positively catchy “Barrytown”. Unfortunately “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” wastes space at the end of the side with a Duke Ellington song transposed to guitar. It does little but evoke They Might Be Giants doing “Jessica”.
To underscore their enjoyment of jazz as better than modern music, they start the second half with a tribute to the Charlie of “Parker’s Band”, though the suggestion of being “smacked into a trance” is a little suspect taste-wise. Then there’s “Through With Buzz”, which sounds like mid-period Wings, and is over before you’re able to figure out what’s going on. Likewise, the title track doesn’t explain the significance of the words, but it’s such a well-played groove (and we always want to answer the internal question with “I got my shoes at Thom McAn”). Another terrific solo takes over through the fade. “With A Gun” is an atypical country-flavored song suggesting the Old West, and is also over pretty quick. “Charlie Freak” slows down the general motif of “Through With Buzz” just enough to tell the tale of a junkie’s demise. Its driving arrangement belies the tragedy in the lyric, making for one of the saddest songs ever written. That makes “Monkey In Your Soul” a strange closer.
Short but sweet and mostly strong, there’s enough on Pretzel Logic to recommend it, even as a first entry into Steely Dan. However, it was also the last time they’d resemble a band, instead of a bunch of hired guns chosen for their slickness.
Steely Dan Pretzel Logic (1974)—3½