With such musicians as Edwyn "Never Met A Girl Like You Before" Collins and Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna, Playgroup explores familiarity to breed house music contempt. Like an electronic Chic, Trevor Jackson, (a.k.a. Playgroup), uses live musicians and samples to create mutantly funky house. There are left turns into breakbeat ("Front 2 Back") and Stones-ish electro ("Bring It On"), but the message is still the metronomically perfect, feel-no-pain pleasure of house.
Collins adds a wry sense of humor to the album, including the mechanical "Medicine Man," and Hanna sounds exquisitely tortured on "Bring It On." But you wonder, is Jackson successfully fusing house and electro-pop or simply failing at both? The dreamy, pulsating "Too Much" features a clever Scritti Politti sample; the dubby "Surface To Air" a snippet of the enigmatic Shoes For Industry. Hats off to Jackson for his most exotic stroke, hiring reggae crooner Shinehead for a Jamaican update on Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover." While the song grooves, exchanging the fluid, march-like rhythms of the original for a robotic beatbox pulse is like replacing blue blood with Jack Daniels. Not so bad if inebriation is more important than inhalation. Playgroup closes with a wonderfully stupid Fatboy Slim remix of "Front 2 Back," an infectious superstar turn on an album of classic starf--king.