The Bad Plus Never Stop

Never Stop (on the E1 label) is the album from The Bad Plus that many of us have been waiting for—the first of their albums to consist entirely of original material.

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.

Jon Iverson's picture

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Derwyn Goodall's picture

Hey Fred, I was fortunate enough to find the vinyl edition of this fascinating record. I love the music, but I find I have to turn the volume way up to really get any dynamic life and presence. Is this your experience here?

Fred Kaplan's picture

Derwyn - I didn't know there was a vinyl version. I'll check it out. I did note that the CD has been dynamically compressed a bit, but I wouldn't say it lacks dynamic life or presence.

Derwyn Goodall's picture

Perhaps "compression" would have been a better word to use. What struck me right away was the fact I had to turn the volume up to from 10 o'clock (which is the level I typically listen at) to 2 or 3 o'clock to really enjoy and feel the energy of the music. With approximately 60 minutes of music spread over one vinyl slab, I cannot help but think that this release would have sounded much better as a double vinyl edition.

jrmandude's picture

compression smession. these guys rock. (and smart enuff to come through my town soon)

Mark Zobel's picture

Yup this LP is very compressed and the pressing is no dream either. Stick with CD.I've heard these guys a number of times in concert and their recordings don't begin to capture their act live. Check them out live if you get an opportunity.

dbaberrva's picture

The Bad Plus played an in-store at Amoeba records here in San Francisco a couple months ago, and I spoke to Dave afterward. He actually recommended buying the CD over the vinyl, as the band was very unhappy with the sound of the first pressing. He cited the exact issue being discussed here, and assured me that the second pressing was going to sound "way better." Hopefully that means they are going to spread it out over 2 LPs, because as Derwyn pointed out, 58 minutes of music is WAY too much for 1 disc.