The Bad Plus Never Stop
Don’t get me wrong. I like their arch covers of Pink Floyd, Nirvana, and Burt Bacharach as much as the next postmodernist. And I believe them when they said that they’re not spoofing those pop tunes, that they truly love this music. (In my interview with him long ago, the group’s pianist, Ethan Iverson, extolled "Mr. Cobain’s Stravinskyite open-fifths.")
Still, these guys—Iverson, Reid Anderson on bass, and Dave King on drums—are top-flight musicians and very talented composers, and it’s good to hear them charting their own orbits. It’s been 10 years since TBP first hit the scene; the covers have taken on an aura of obligatoriness; let TBP be Iverson, Anderson & King.
Never Stop still has wit, even whimsy. But there’s also a more seamless swing to this music, a less pushy virtuosity, and a heftier emotional drive, whether it’s dancing-in-your-head, freeform frenzy, or bittersweet balladry.
The sonics are also more natural than the slick rock-studio mix on their earlier, Tchad Blake-produced albums. Iverson says that, for the first time, the piano and drums were in the same room during the recording. The drums are a bit compressed (they have to be, given how loud King sometimes plays), but the interplay seems livelier, and there’s no loss of texture or detail in the instruments.