Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bad Plus Add A Vocalist, And We're Not Sure We Like It

We here at HAD have been big fans of The Bad Plus ever since we saw them touring in support of These Are The Vistas way back in 2003. Since then, the band has released a number of truly enjoyable albums, and continued to expand and further their identity as a trio. The band does an amazing job at combining the influences of progressive rock, jazz, and whatever else they feel like mixing in, to yield a unique sound that appeals to just about anyone.

Which brings us to 2009: The Bad Plus have announced that their latest record, entitled For All I Care, will be a collaboration with a vocalist named Wendy Lewis. Apparently, they were inspired by the classic eponymous John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album, which is all well and good - if Wendy Lewis were anything like Johnny Hartman. Which is to say, she is not.

Frankly, we're pretty happy with the Bad Plus' formula, and it seems to have a lot of room to grow, despite a constant lineup. Not that we're averse to change. Rather, it just seems like the band's distinctive style requires a really specific voice to complement it, and Lewis' just isn't it. The band's sound tends to be rather abstract, and leave a lot of spaces - so that even familiar tunes require that you really pay attention to see where they're going. By contrast, the tracks with Lewis feel stifled and constrained by her vocals. She sticks hard and fast to song structures and melodies, so that the band seems to be just waiting to let loose. It's not that there's anything bad about it per se, it just loses an element of The Bad Plus that we know and love. Then again, given the album's title, maybe that's exactly the idea.

The album has already been released in the rest of the world, so there are a lot of tracks floating around online. Below is the official "promo track" for the US, a cover of The Flaming Lips' "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate". We'll let you judge for yourself, and we'll be picking up the full album when it drops, but at the moment we're more than a little skeptical.

For All I Care drops on February 3rd.

mp3: The Bad Plus feat. Wendy Lewis - Feeling Yourself Disintegrate (YouSendIt, click through)