The basic plot is evident: a young man in a budding courtship with a young lady who has “a touch of Tuesday Weld,” against a Cold War backdrop. Another unabashedly, un-ironic song of romance from The Nightfly, and it becomes more and more clear that what Walter Becker brought to the songwriting partnership was delicious, literary-informed snarkery that keeps fans dissecting the words to their songs for years. What is lost with Becker’s input is gained in seeing a previously suppressed side of Fagen: a sentimental, old bastard all of 34 years old at the time of this record’s release. He cleverly weaves cultural references of the era with that sentimentality (“I hear you’re mad about Brubeck/I like your eyes I like him, too”), and it’s that time capsule aspect of “New Frontier” that keeps listeners locked into the narrative.
In between those chic snippets of prose are snippets of gently pleading blues licks, coming courtesy of “Mr. 335″ Larry Carlton. This device of spreading out the guitar soloing all over the song is something we’ve seen on “Show Biz Kids” and “Pretel Logic,” and it’s nice to see Carlton get his turn. The tasteful, unobtrusive way he goes about it made it possible for this song to get released as a single and it became a minor hit for Fagen, reaching #34 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Another guitar player, Hugh McCracken, makes his mark on the song, too: as a harmonica player.
And someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the first “official video” for any Steely Dan-related song?