Dare I say, there are no good songs which directly take on the tragedy of 9-11. Neil Young’s song, “Let’s Roll” is the most memorable of a sorry bunch. Part of the challenge is that the events that surround the day are so large in scale that a four-minute pop song doesn’t do the event justice. Luckily for Steely Dan, “Godwhacker” doesn’t take on 9-11 directly. As with so many Steely Dan songs it only gives a hint of the main theme and leaves enough musical and lyrical space for the listener to go the rest of the journey.
Musically, “Godwhacker” is as good a Steely Dan gets. Jon Herington takes the main rhythm guitar hook while Hugh McCracken’s guitar skates around the edges of the melody. Walter Becker continues providing tasty and appropriately complex bass parts while drummer Keith Carlock does a fantastically complex job of working his high-hat with one hand and hitting is snare in lock step with Becker’s bass with the other.
Unlike the prior track “Blues Beach,” the guitar solo has a bite and the solo actually follows a rare and almost Stevie Wonder-like synth solo by Donald Fagen. I can’t remember the a time when Becker and Fagen kept the solos on the same song for themselves (maybe “Hey Nineteen”), yet here they do just that on “Godwhacker” and the results are fantastic.
Lyrically, the song is almost classic ‘Dan. Fagen sings, “In the beginning we could hang with the dude, but it’s been too much of nothing of that stank attitude; now they curse your name and there’s a bounty on your face. It’s your own fault daddy Godwhacker’s on the case…”
What does it mean? Think about it. All I do know is that this is one of the many turns of phases which paint a story you want to explore again and again.