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Steely Dan

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Steely Dan Two Against Nature album cover
3.36 | 120 ratings | 11 reviews | 12% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2000

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Gaslighting Abbie (5:53)
2. What a Shame About Me (5:17)
3. Two Against Nature (6:17)
4. Janie Runaway (4:09)
5. Almost Gothic (4:09)
6. Jack of Speed (6:17)
7. Cousin Dupree (5:28)
8. Negative Girl (5:34)
9. West of Hollywood (8:21)

Total Time 51:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Donald Fagen / organ (9), piano (2), clavinet (1), keyboards (3-7,9), vocals
- Walter Becker / bass (2-7), guitar (1-4,6,7,9)

- Hugh McCracken / guitar (5)
- Jon Herington / acoustic (5) & rhythm (3,7,9) guitars
- Paul Jackson Jr. / guitar (8)
- Dean Parks / guitar (8)
- Ted Baker / keyboards (4,5,7,8), piano (9)
- Ken Hitchcock / clarinet (3)
- Lawrence Feldman / clarinet (1,5), tenor (3,4,6) & alto (5) saxophones
- Michael Leonhart / trumpet (1-6), piano (3), horn section conductor, Wurlitzer
- David Tofani / tenor saxophone (1,3)
- Lou Marini / tenor (2) & alto (6) saxophones
- Chris Potter / alto (4) & tenor (1,9) saxophones
- Jim Pugh / trombone (1-3,5,6)
- Roger Rosenberg / bass clarinet (1,3-5), baritone saxophone (2,6)
- Amy Helm / whistling (7)
- Tom Barney / bass (1,8,9)
- Ricky Lawson / drums (1)
- Michael White / drums (2,6)
- Keith Carlock / drums (3)
- Leroy Clouden / drums (4,5,7)
- Vinnie Colaiuta / drums (8)
- Sonny Emory / drums (9)
- Gordon Gottlieb / percussion (2,3,5,6,9)
- Will Lee / percussion (6)
- Daniel Sadownick / percussion & timbales (3)
- Steve Shapiro / vibraphone (3)
- David Schenk / vibraphone (8)
- Cynthia Calhoun / backing vocals (1-3,6,8,9)
- Mike Harvey / backing vocals (1-3,5,6,9)
- Carolyn Leonhart / backing vocals (1-5,7-9)

Releases information

Artwork: Carol Bobolts

CD Giant Records ‎- 9 24719-2 (2000, US)

DVD Giant Records ‎- 9 24719-9 (2002, US) Full album in HiRes Stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes

Thanks to micky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy STEELY DAN Two Against Nature Music

STEELY DAN Two Against Nature ratings distribution

(120 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (41%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

STEELY DAN Two Against Nature reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by progrules
3 stars When this album was released in 2000 I couldn't believe it. SD had been stone dead for some 20 years. Although, stone dead, I remember having seen them live in 1995 in Rotterdam ! What's stuck in my memory is the huge reception they got from the audience (some 10.000 I guess) that was already going wild by seeing them in person. It's not that strange actually because SD didn't do much live. Certainly not in Europe and then surprisingly in 1995, it was more of a miracle. It had a great impact on me. And I'm sure mr. Fagen wasn't really at ease with the situation, I think he was overwhelmed doing all kind of strange things on the stage. But it was a great performance, an unforgettable experience.

Then 5 years later a new album. It became a success and a year later the ballot of the great hall of fame of music added SD quite rightly to this hall as a sort of making up for what should have happened 20 years earlier. Two against Nature is a very nice album but it's not a match for their three predecessors (Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho). Those were three jewels that deserved the 4 stars completely. This one is at least half a grade less in quality but that is really still a very high level. The songs are more or less in the same style, still jazzy like back then but more like funky jazz than the former smooth jazz. And what's still there is the perfection. Sheer quality of production.

Another big plus for this album is that there are no fillers, which is almost the usual thing with Steely Dan because they also hardly did that in the seventies. But I have to say there are no true highlights either at least not to me. A very equable album that means and another headache case for the doubt between 3 and 4 stars. Because it's significantly less compared to the three mentioned albums I'm afraid I will have to round down (3,5*).

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a long rest or three studio albums later Steely Dan returned with a bang. This album won numerous awards too so this was not a quick reason to make a buck, I think more like Donald Fagen and Walter Becker wanted to get together again for the passion of making good music. Donald Fagen made two high quality albums ' Nightfly' and the futuristic ' Kamakiriad', whilst Becker made the album '11 Tracks of Whack!'. Fagen's album in many respects sounded like SD albums ( coincidentally produced by Walter Becker) but the true vintage sound returned on Two Against Nature. Musically more jazz associations, more intricate and complex sounds, the usual intelligent lyrics and even more horn arrangements, for the most part competently looked after by Michael Leonhart. Carolyn Leonhart, Cynthia Calhoun and Michael Harvey are also brilliant assisting on the backing vocals. Another strength to this studio album. There are some classics, almost controversial lyrics at times too, like the clever ' Cousin Dupree' where Fagen sings about his infatuation for his Aunts daughter ( don't worry he gets his come uppance), the funny ' Gaslighting Abbie'. Commercially I would have to say ' Jack Of Speed' comes closest, but what a funky groove!!. Funnily enough the least standout tracks are the most appealing IMO on Two Against Nature. The excellent ' Almost Gothic', my personal favourite ' Negative Girl', listen to the phenomenal guitar sounds fading out this track by either Dean Parks or Paul Jackson Jnr. and last and not least the final opus ' West Of Hollywood' which ends with some phrenetic horns and sax to confirm the more jazzy side of Steely Dan. There is no mistaking more jazz is evident, a bit like Supertramp's last two albums and this is far from being a negative. An excellent addition to any progressive music collection.
Review by Chicapah
4 stars Toward the end of the last millennium I got the news that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were making another Steely Dan album. This may shock you, but I wasn't excited. I've been burned way too many times by purchasing on blind faith "reunion" projects from groups that I once looked up to only to hear some of the most God awful musical manure imaginable. In the case of the Dans it had been twenty friggin' years since "Gaucho" and children had been conceived, born, raised, graduated from high school and gotten halfway to their Bachelor of Arts degree in that time span. So I ignored it, which was easy because the radio played nary a song. Then the darn thing up and won four Grammy awards including the prestigious Album of the Year. But still I hesitated. Then I caught an excellent concert on PBS one night and decided that it might not be a letdown after all. So I bought it and guess what. The voters in the academy were right. The high level of musical integrity that characterized all their recordings in the 70s had been maintained and, in many ways, it was like they'd never left. As before, Don & Walt corralled an army of specialized studio cats to do their bidding so each jazz rock/fusion-tinged cut has its own unique personality and style. And, just as importantly, their compelling, intuitive lyrics plus their wry sense of humor is intact throughout.

They start things off with the funky prog (Frog) of "Gaslighting Abbie," where the arrestingly crisp drumkit sound of Ricky Lawson and the exemplary bass lines of Tom Barney let you know that Steely Dan is most assuredly back. Soon the hot horn section starts peeking into the track and the jazzy chorus begins to twirl around your brain. Walter shows that he's been practicing on his guitar for those two decades because not only is his tone pure as the driven snow but he shows tasteful restraint during his solo by simply riding atop the unstoppable groove. If you're craving something a little spicier, Chris Potter's sax ride later on is much more adventurous. Donald's vocal chops display no signs of suffering from age as he smoothly croons about a man and his mistress plotting to drive his wife insane. "Let's keep it light/we'll do a fright night/with blood and everything/some punky laughter/from the kitchen/and then a nice, relaxing hand of solitaire." Good to hear their love for creeps hasn't diminished.

"What a Shame About Me" has a fluid, slightly Latin rock beat that draws you right in from the get-go. The sharp accents on the chorus provide the dynamics, the horns are thick as thieves and, once again, Becker impresses with his slinky guitarisms both in the middle and during the ending as the female chorale chirps "shame, shame about me." Here a fellow runs into an old flame from college and he has to fess up that, while her and their peers have accomplished great things with their lives, he's nothing but a burned-out wannabe. She suggests a mercy poke for old time's sake but he responds with ". babe, you look delicious/and you're standing very close/but like this is lower Broadway/and you're talking to a ghost/take a good look/it's easy to see/what a shame about me." It's a brilliant tune from every angle.

A non-stop, driving 6/8 time signature provides a prog underpinning for the album's title cut, "Two Against Nature," and its open spaces allow a host of individual instruments to shine brightly. The brazen saxes in particular literally dance in and out of the spotlight. Lyrically it's a goofy funhouse full of inside jokes but the joyous, celebratory mood created by the delirious duo being together again can't be overlooked. "Two against nature/love this gig/pull up the weeds/before they're too damn big/two against nature/stand alone/who's gonna chase the shape/of things unknown?" That would be Steely Dan.

"Jamie Runaway" features a laid-back feel but it's lazy in a good way. I risk sounding like a broken record but the arrangement of the horns and the virtuosos that play them are the stars on this number. They're too cool for words. And, speaking of words, they describe yet another in a string of lecherous cads they've invented through the years. This disgusting dork has taken in a runaway teenage girl, not because he has a big heart but because he wants to talk her into a sexual three- way. "Who has a friend named Melanie?/who's not afraid to try new things?/who gets to spend her birthday in Spain?/possibly you, Jamie Runaway." (I suspect this might the same wrinkled grub worm who believed he could buy happiness and eternal youth on "Babylon Sisters.")

"Almost Gothic" is a throwback to the "Katy Lied" days of the mid 70s. In a nice change of pace Michael Leonhart's muted trumpet is a treat to hear and Fagen's slightly affected vocal is effective as he clues us in to a boy's excitement over his new girlfriend. She's unlike anyone he's ever met and he's infatuated. "First she's all feel/then she cools down/she's pure science/with a splash of black cat/she's almost gothic/and I like it like that," he gushes. The Frog groove returns on the next cut, "Jack of Speed," with its contagious background lines shared by Walter's guitar and the horns throughout. Donald seems to be expressing his concerns to a vulnerable girl about her shady meth-dealing acquaintance. "You maybe got lucky/for a few good years/but there's no way back/from there to here/he's a one way rider/on the shriek express/and his new best friend/is at the throttle/more or less," Fagen warns.

I'll preach this sermon to anyone who'll listen. If you're ever in the dumps just put on "Cousin Dupree" and you'll find it next to impossible to resist the dance floor of your living room. Drummer Leroy Clouden lays down a slick boogie that won't quit, Becker's sneaky guitar ride fits just right and the hushed tones coming from the female chorale is perfect for the theme. It seems that our leading man is a ne'er-do-well music man crashing on his Aunt's sofa who quickly falls in lust with his gorgeous cousin that lives there. But the joke's on him when he makes his libidinous intentions known to her and she turns him down flat. "She said maybe it's the skeevy look in your eyes/or that your mind has turned to applesauce/the dreary architecture of your soul/I said-but what is it exactly turns you off?" Gotta love it.

What may be the most amazing thing about this album is how they were able to tack on two very involved jazz rock/fusion pieces to the disc without the general public realizing that they were listening to prog. "Negative Girl" sports a deeply mysterious atmosphere and a complex chord structure that is delightful. Dave Schenk's vibes enthrall the senses and you'll be hypnotized by the way the whole song just seems to float like a cloud. It's about a guy who is helplessly attracted to manic drama queens. "She's in the zone/crying on the phone/I need you here/I'm on the street again/staggering out into the burn of the brain dead dawn/to arrive in time to find her gone," he sings. The final cut, "West of Hollywood," is another fine track with an intriguing chord progression. This song really opens up to cultivate some mind-bending guitar and obtuse saxophone episodes that are not to be missed. The words are abstract but appropriate in describing a modern L.A. love affair. "Together we'll endure the tyranny of the disallowed" and "I'm way deep into nothing special," Donald relates. But best of all, they let the track run its own natural course for well over eight minutes and it's primo stuff to the very end.

If anything, Steely Dan proved that, like old jazz musicians, there's a lot to be said for experience and dedication to one's art no matter how much water has streamed under the bridge. Fagen and Becker didn't try to exhume old bodies, spruce them up and relive their glory days. They're better than that. They intuitively took hold of the respect that continued to exist between themselves and expertly molded the music still creatively flowing out of their hands. In the case of "Two Against Nature" they proved that true art doesn't recognize age, only quality. And this album has plenty of that. 4.4 stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Two Against Nature is the eight studio album from US pop/ rock act Steely Dan and itīs also the first Steely Dan studio album in twenty years. The last one being Gaucho from 1980.

Musicwise not much has happened since Gaucho. Steely Dan still play laidback jazzy pop/ rock and as the productions on the old albums were as excellent as they were, this more modern production is hardly an improvement. Not that this sound is any less excellent than the old productions itīs just a matter of taste what you prefer. So nothing new under the sun and Iīm a bit disappointed that they are content with playing the same old stuff again. The songs are allright but really doesnīt feel as innovative or fresh as some of the songs on the older albums. The exception here being the excellent West of Hollywood which has extensive intrumental parts. I actually regard that song to be one of the best ever by Steely Dan. Itīs sad that the rest of the album isnīt as exciting or progressive.

After having worked my way through all seven old Steely Dan albums and then this one I can honestly say that Two Against Nature is my least favorite of the first eight albums. This is a 2 star rating. Íīm simply not enjoying myself as much as I did on the older albums. Had all songs been in the vein of West of Hollywood this album could have gotten a BIG 3 star or a SMALL 4 star rating from me.

Review by Kazuhiro
3 stars Tour for re-formation that spends between 1993 and 1994 and is done. They were making remarks at time when "Alive in America" that collected the tune with which the tune of old and new was laced was announced that they composed for a new studio album.

It was in December, 1999 to complete this "Two Against Nature". They were making remarks on this details respectively. It is said that the recording was done in Hawaii for a little while because Walter Becker of the production of this album lived in Hawaii. However, work is produced with River Sound Studio that exists almost in New York.

This studio was a studio that Donald Fagen had constructed. And, it was a studio that had been used to produce "Kamakiriad" that Donald Fagen had announced in 1993. It had the flow that shifted to the tour of Steely Dan since Solo Album of this situation and Donald Fagen was announced. The fan and the listener might have hoped for the re-formation of Steely Dan because Walter Baecker, Steely Dan, and familiar, deep Gary Katz were related to the production of "Kamakiriad" as the result.

If these details are considered, the relation between a problem concerning the drug that Walter Becker set up as their situations after 1980 and Solo Album each other will be enumerated. Activity of Donald Fagen to announce Solo Album besides Walter Becker that migrates to Hawaii. And, it is partial of the work of production concerning Solo Album each other in close relation to the part made to agree in 1993. These might have had details that led to the tour of the re-formation and the revival of Steely Dan as a result. The music character of Solo Album and the music character of the purpose and Steely Dan were made remarks becoming a different kind as the result as a remark each other. There was a part where Steely Dan to say nothing of the content of Solo Album each other was recollected, too. However, there might have been an element and a possibility to be able to be convinced for them in the music character by "Steely Dan" as a result. It is guessed that the conviction was able to be confirmed at the time of the production of "Kamakiriad".

The word called "Nature" is included in this album. They guess that they gave following the music character where they had gone to this album and a universal part. The function of a digital sample and the sequence has already been said the introduction already when "Gaucho" was produced in their remarks. However, the music character at which they had aimed with this album was in the expression of following the music character that they had and a human sound. Expression of human sound that exists in nucleus of part and work to introduce state-of-the-art machine parts. And, it is partial of the pursuit of the sound with warmth. These might be the results of the expression of their music characters of the universal element surely and projection to the album. Passage is guessed to be an incessant flow of their natural parts and pure approachs for about 20 years after "Gaucho" is announced as a studio album.

The rhythm of complete steady groove sounds comfortably in "Gaslighting Abbie". The line of Cutting and Bass of the guitar also gives the tune the flavor of Funk very much. The operation of Chord of the free transforming in which Steely Dan is skillful is alive and well. The tune including the guitar, the wind instrument, and the keyboard combines. Especially, the composition of Chord is splendid.

"What A Shame About Me" has the flavor of Rock And Roll calculated very much. It might be a tune from which their roots are followed. A part of the wind instrument and piano Chord also have some flavors of Jazz. However, their tastes have gone out enough of not simple Rock but this tune. Individuality is expressed enough.

In "Two Against Nature", the rhythm of Latin and the samba is bases. Flavor of rhythm carved in acute angle. Atmosphere of rhythm section that considers bass. The tune including a bright melody gives the transposition a little. Solo of the guitar and Sax also expands the width of the tune.

A few Rock might exist together to the part of Pop in "Janie Runaway". The song and the rhythm are steady. The flavor of the guitar and Sax to get on the flow gives good Rock And Roll. However, this tune is also peculiar to the progress of Chord. It is very unique.

"Almost Gothic" might be a little pastoral tune. The progress of Chord is very peculiar. A little mysterious impression might be given. The chorus and the keyboard contribute to the tune. And, the band including the sound of solo and the clarinet of the trumpet is constructing the mysterious world. The impression follows from the vicinity of "Gaucho" and might be expansive.

"Jack Of Speed" might be Rock where the element of Blues is felt a little. The guitar and the Brass section decide the impression of the tune. The flow that minor Chord is made good use of is steady.

"Cousin Dupree" might be Rock And Roll that has both R&B with the atmosphere in the 50's. The guitar and the rhythm produce good Groove. The keyboard is matched to the atmosphere of the tune. The band advances in union. The flavor with good chorus part is affixed.

"Negative Girl" has a complete transparent feeling and the anacatesthesia. The impression might be very mysterious. As for the progress of original Chord, the guitar and the keyboard decide it. Part of anacatesthesia that contains syncopation. And, the rhythm that Vinnie Colaiuta to give individuality to the impression of this album completely makes might be splendid. The tune including solo of the vibraphone becomes complete.

"West Of Hollywood" is a tune that is reminiscent of the music character of Steely Dan in the 80's. Comfortable dash feeling. Part of verse that makes emotional melody. The keyboard and the guitar have expanded the width of the tune very much. The tune including the part of the transposition develops further and advances. Flavor of Jazz that Sax and Piano are good. Technical respect also shows the performance. Especially, the latter half of the tune might have respect of Jazz Rock.

Old and a past drawing out have the part in which it doesn't feel it too much in this studio album announced after the period of about 20 years. They were doing the music that had to be done with the purpose and the necessity oppositely. It is a good album where universality exists together to development.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars After a twenty year hiatus (which included a few solo albums and occasional reunion shows and tours), Steely Dan finally released a new album. And, surprisingly enough, the album continues exactly as they left off. Where the first bunch of Steely Dan albums had a wide array of song styles, some unexpected, "Aja" and "Gaucho" settled into predictable jazz influenced pop music, heavily laced with electric piano, and some fine guitar and sax solos.

Here we get nine songs of the same. Really. Exactly the same. All of the songs have that "Hey, look at me. I'm from New York." poser sort of cool. All of them make good background music. But not one of them is a standout song that grabs your attention. No Bodhisattva, no Kid Charlemagne, not even a Do It Again. I know Cousin Dupree got some airplay when this was released, but I challenge you to find someone who remembers any song from this album.

2.5 stars.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After 20 years, Steely Dan finally released their 8th album. After the release of 'Gaucho' in 1980, the SD frontmen, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, released several solo albums and participated in many other projects, and finally got back together, much to the delight of fans everywhere, to 'Do It Again'.

This time around, they kept the band down to just themselves, and played most of the instruments by themselves, but they also had many, many guests helping them out. For the most part, the album followed right where they left off, playing a smooth, jazz fusion with funky and rock sensibilities. Becker played all of the regular guitars, including bass, while Fagen took care of keyboards, vocals and many other instruments.

The style is very much like they had in 'Aja' and 'Gaucho', both successful albums, and they weren't about to change a good thing. And they didn't have to. This was their signature sound, and it is what people expected, that cool, hep jazz sound, with a lot of good guitar and plenty of brass, sax and clarinet.

This predictability in their sound does work to its detriment however. That is not saying this is a bad album, because you get that same clean sound as before, with emphasis on perfection in sound. But, you know exactly what you are getting, and I tend to miss some of the odd surprises that the band used to pull on their listeners, causing them to stretch a little.

Now, there are still reasons to get this album, and those reasons are tracks like 'Two Against Nature' which has a lovely sax solo. The song that follows, 'Janie Runaway' has the great funky and complex attitude found on Fagen's 'The Nightfly' title track. The opening track 'Gaslighting Abbie' is also excellent and gets you all excited for what could have been an excellent album. I even like the closer 'West of Hollywood' mostly for the instrumental sections. But, the best tracks are on the first half of the album, and even then, a few of them are a little less memorable. And nothing really stood out on the 2nd half, just more of the same, a great sound, but lacking anything new. The album starts to sound more like some great outtakes from their glory days instead of new songs, because the sound is really not much different.

Even with the strong tracks though, by the time its all done, it feels like you have heard this before. The band's quest for perfection tends to shine out all of the rough edges that used to make them so appealing. There are also no surprises here. It would have been nice to hear some more progressive sounds, like in the track 'Aja', or some blues-inflected tracks like 'Black Friday' or 'Chain Lightening'. Or even a more guitar driven track like 'Bodhistava' or rendition of a standard, like the instrumental 'East St. Louis Toodle-oo'. Variety could have gone a long ways here, but they keep things safe with the jazz style they are most comfortable with. But, at the same time, it could have been a lot worse, and at least they ended up with a decent album, just a step above 'Gaucho', but not as great as 'Aja' or 'Katy Lied'. Anyway, it's a great album, definitely not a throwaway, just not as good as it could have been. Still, it gets 4 stars for its clarity and musicianship, but it could have been a 5 with some variety or more progressiveness.

Review by Necrotica
4 stars For a moment, cast your minds back to February 2001. The Grammy Awards were in full swing, and the roster of artists competing for Album of the Year were quite the diverse bunch. Radiohead, Beck, and Eminem? what do all of them have in common though? The fact that they all got their start in the 90s and were considered newer artists at the time. I get the sense that most people were placing their bets on either Radiohead or Eminem winning, but as we've seen in previous Grammy ceremonies - Jethro Tull winning for Best Heavy Metal Album in 1989, anyone? - things don't always go as planned. So right on cue, as if rubbing it in the faces of all the Gen X'ers in the audience, Steely Dan's Two Against Nature was announced as the Album of the Year and the duo were given their award by none other than Stevie Wonder.

In any case, it's crazy how much a singular event can shape the public's perception of an artist. After all, this is the same blessed industry in which Ashlee Simpson's career got torn to ribbons just a few years later because of her Saturday Night Live, all for the crime of lip-syncing to the wrong song. The perception of Steely Dan has long been that of a "[&*!#]ty dad rock band" by a lot of people, despite the level of sophistication in the duo's songwriting or the sheer cynical cleverness found in their lyrics. Is it possible that this is just lingering contempt from the people who remember that Grammy ceremony? Maybe. But the point is clear: at least give the damn music a chance first and see if your preconceived notions can be changed. Who knows? Maybe you'll find some unexpected gems.

Speaking of "unexpected", though, Two Against Nature initially made for a pretty surprising listen. As much as I praise albums like Aja and The Royal Scam, none of the records from the duo's initial run manage to reach the - for lack of a better word - JAZZINESS of this one. The chill atmosphere and lush arrangements of Gaucho have now been expanded even further, and a lot of the instrumental passages really do approach the realms of traditional jazz fusion. The 70s Dan albums always flirted with jazz classics, but their pop leanings always brought them back under the umbrella of "jazz rock" instead of all-out jazz fusion. In other words, if you're looking for the most challenging and complex record Donald Fagen and Walter Becker ever released, this is the one. Just listen to the way the title track keeps shifting in and out of different time signatures with its latin beat, or how "Almost Gothic" can't seem to pick a consistent key or chord progression to stay in.

But here's the thing: the record goes about its business in such a subtle way that you're not going to absorb it all in one listen. The music still goes under the same chill guise you'd get from a slick smooth jazz album, but it's the little quirks that really set it apart. One of the best examples of this comes in the form of "Negative Girl"; the tune is so relaxing as it glides across your eardrums, but listen closer and you'll find wonderfully complex bass lines from Tom Barney and equally off-kilter drum patterns. On the other side of the energy spectrum, you have the upbeat closing mini-epic "West of Hollywood" which starts out pretty conventionally before revealing its true colors halfway through; a roaring saxophone solo takes over, with Chris Potter tearing it up over ever-changing keyboard melodies. Consequently, stuff like this also makes Two Against Nature the least accessible Dan record, but it's incredibly rewarding if you give it a chance. Plus, there are still some songs that are much more approachable, notably the relatively straightforward singles "Cousin Dupree" and "Janie Runaway".

Of course, as with most albums by the duo, the polished music is often presented in contrast with the lyrics. "Cousin Dupree" was the most extensively discussed song to come from the album, as it deals with a slacker who's just a little too interested in his cousin, and the lyrics even got a nod from Owen Wilson for being reminiscent of the movie You, Me and Dupree (though the song came out first). But let's be real here; wild topics like infidelity and incest aren't really out of place in a Steely Dan album. So if anything, I have to commend them for sticking to their guns after being away for so long. Other songs explore similarly dirty topics, such as the sexual escapades found in "Janie Runaway" or the meth-fueled character portrait of "Jack of Speed". Just as with Gaucho, the music is so beautiful and slick that you almost get distracted by just how dark these songs can get. The juxtaposition is simply fantastic.

While I probably would have rooted for Kid A at the 2001 Grammy Awards, Two Against Nature wouldn't have been far behind it. People may still complain and consider the win an "upset", but this really is a fantastic album that progressed Steely Dan in a meaningful way stylistically. If anything, it actually represents the end of their slow transformation into the jazz fusion group that they were always hinting at becoming? it just so happens that people had to wait another 20 years to finally hear it. Give it a listen if you've been predisposed to avoid it; you might be surprised.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Steely Dan made a big splash with this comeback album, their first in 20 years, and it was great to hear the unique songs and style of Steely Dan again (There is just no one else that sounds like Steely Dan). However, although the album successfully resurrects their style and warped vision once agai ... (read more)

Report this review (#2874743) | Posted by BBKron | Thursday, January 12, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I had heard of these guys, but I never attempted to listen to them, and I'm sorry that I never had a chance to properly listen to them. So when I saw a used copy of this album, I immediately bought it, because if they're on this website, they must be at least worth listening to them. And I'm ... (read more)

Report this review (#288135) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Friday, June 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Two Against Nature was Steely Dan's comeback studio album, and it made a big splash. It netted them a number of Grammy awards and much critical acclaim. It's plain to see why Steely Dan have ended up as one of Down Beat Magazine's favourite beyond artists. Their combination of inventive music c ... (read more)

Report this review (#180835) | Posted by DocB | Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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