Postmodern jazz trio the Bad Plus has caused a fair amount of debate in the jazz world with their mixture of post-bop vocabulary, rock-influenced feel, and D.I.Y. attitude. SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY?--the band's third album--is unlikely to settle any of those debates. With their funky, deconstructionist cover of Vangelis's "(Theme from) Chariots of Fire" and their shape-shifting originals, the Bad Plus are full of surprises.
The band excels equally at driving compositions ("Anthem for the Earnest") that draw on the punchy, bass-fueled energy of rock, and off-kilter lyricism like the jittery, poetic "Knows the Difference." Drummer David King plays like a cross between Elvin Jones and John Bonham, while pianist Ethan Iverson sweeps all over the keyboard with classical flourishes and punk aggression. Whether or not the Bad Plus fit your idea of jazz, SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY? is an intriguing listen.