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In a holding pattern?

Suspicious Activity
Suspicious Activity
By The Bad Plus

Sony Music: 2005

This review first appeared in Turbula in October 2005.

When The Bad Plus sprung on the music scene, they were the freshest sound going in jazz – even if some critics sniffed that the young power trio wasn't really playing jazz, but jazzed-up rock.

But now, on their third studio album, there's a certain sameness settling over the band, a sense that we've heard this before.

Which isn't literally true – the cuts on "Suspicious Activity" are all new.

What isn't all that new anymore is the band's sound. Perhaps we're just spoiled, and of course the members of the band each have their sound and approach, and we can't – shouldn't – expect or want that to keep changing. Still, their cover of "(Theme From) Chariots of Fire" is almost predictable, following the lead of earlier covers of songs like Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Queen's "We Are the Champions" or the Pixies' "Velouria": oversized piano flourishes by Ethan Iverson and pounding rhythms from bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King.

The nine originals here are nice enough, but are similar to the originals from their earlier albums.

If not in a rut, the new album certainly seems to find the band in a bit of a holding pattern. Their stellar talent keeps them from ever turning out a bad album, but the creative edge that marked their first few outings seems a bit dulled.