Playgroup
Reproduction

Peacefrog
2005
C



his collection of diverse artists, all remixed by Playgroup (Trevor Jackson’s current nom de production) tend to be somewhat genericized by his treatment. Some of the songs actually benefit from having edges smoothed and stricter meter informed, but many lose too much of the original character, which can make the extended versions seem interminable.

Witness “Grab my Shaft,” in which Louie Austen manages to be even more jaded-sounding and irksome than his featured guest Peaches. The groove is there, but by the fifth repetition of “grab my shaft, blow my horn, when it’s hard in the early morn,” the listener begins hoping whoever’s doing the grabbing is wearing some of those nifty prosthetic claws available from purveyors of real smut. This song would be banal, not witty, even if it had the soul of brevity.

Other epic mixes fare better just for being less annoying, but the longest of them, Yello’s “Soul on Ice” and Soft Cell’s “Monoculture” deserve a mixed reaction. While extending the latter’s chant of “Everything is boring, everything’s the same” is pleasantly perverse, it’s not such a good thing that many will want this much of it. Yes, it would probably work better on a dance floor, at least for those that can still stomach nostalgia.

Only one other song goes significantly beyond the seven-minute mark, but it earns it by being unabashedly energetic. Andrea Doria’s “Bucci Bag,” with its references to knockoffs of Gucci and Prada and its shakin’ rhythms is a keeper, as are many of the others. Even this ‘80’s hata has been converted by the rework of Chicks on Speed’s cover of “Wordy Rappinghood.” The bassline boldly takes lead, leaving the chicken-scratch guitar and percussion to handle rhythm, which they do so slyly as to be almost subliminal.

“Gangsta” by Chromeo is one of the better examples of artist and mixer being well suited. Jackson doesn’t have to try as hard with this one, and he’s given a great vocal line to work with: “I feel a permanent fire when I look into your eyes, I feel a burning desire runnin’ down my thighs. I can tell you’re not like any of them other guys, and that’s kind of fly, ‘coz you’re so gangsta.” The song itself smolders at mid-tempo with sax breaks that manage to be smooth while still having a bit of bite—it perfectly fits with the description of a guy who puts fear in others’ eyes, but leaves our singer wanting more.

Tracks by Sinema and Revtone follow this model, nice and tight, strolling generously around the floor, but not for too long. Even more laid back, Captain Comatose’s “Price Gun Baby” is buoyed by the pleasantly crooned lyric “The tag is on my ass, I’m going cheap, Sale’s my middle name, the change is yours to keep…” Rather than just repeating, the lyrics actually move on to other cleverness, getting a real smile instead of just a smirk.

The rest of the two-disc set is mostly competent-to-good, with one other standout. It’s a dub of Playgroup’s own “Bring it On” that is wonderfully spacey. Kathleen Hanna’s vocal is phased and reverbed so thoroughly one can imagine her in a sci-fi go-go cage of pure energy. It’s not quite as rumbly and wild as Jackson’s work as Underdog, which is a shame. Maybe now that Electroclash’s minute is long gone, he’ll get back to the more visceral work. There’s plenty here to enjoy, but there’s enough dross that it makes the pared down debut album seem even more appealing. One thing about this compilation is consistently good—our boy’s been on the boards so long, his placement of sounds within the mix is nearly on a par with Dave Fridmann’s. It may be an easier trick with sounds this processed, but it’s still impressive. Here’s to a more even batch of material next time out.



Reviewed by: Dan Miron

Reviewed on: 2005-02-28

Recent Reviews By This Author

Various Artists - Saint Etienne Present Songs For Mario’s Café
Various Artists - The Desert Sessions 9 & 10
Electrelane - The Power Out
The Soft Pink Truth - Do You Want New Wave, or Do You Want the Soft Pink Truth?


Comments
Log In to Post Comments
No comments posted.
all content copyright 2004 stylusmagazine.com