Steely Dan Sunday, "With A Gun" (1974)

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With little apparent interest in pursuing non-ironic love songs, Steely Dan have often touched on themes of criminal activity (hell, I think most of The Royal Scam was about crime). They never pursued the topic with an approving tone, though. “With A Gun” brings home the point of settling scores with “the piece in your hand” as something sophomoric you’d find in some old Western flick by rendering the song in a chugging, country and western fashion, replete with strumming acoustic guitars and a fingerpicked electric guitar.

Like the track before it, Becker and Fagen take a simple music form and insert foreign, knottier chords into “With A Gun.” It’s yet another example of how their songwriting was more complex under the hood than it seems on a casual listen. It’s brief, too, running less than twenty ticks past two minutes; the home stretch of Pretzel Logic are full of short, discreet genre exercises in styles they never attempted again, and we will never hear them record a cowboy tune after this one and only time.

On the other hand, there were no more cowboy tunes needed to prove that Steely Dan had a good handle on that kind of music.

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