There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
How much ’80s revivalism can one poor nation take? Just as the Faint forced us to acknowledge those skinny leather ties in our closets, along comes U.K. remixer/producer Trevor Jackson, whose Playgroup project implores us to come to grips with the pastel suits and stubbly chins of Miami Vice. Jackson hardly seems like the kind of guy who grew up wishing he could cruise with Tubbs—indeed, his resume, which includes remixing Massive Attack, UNKLE, and U2, suggests that he’d be a lot more likely to add to the glut of Ibizafied mix CDs. But the sound of Playgroup’s self-titled long-player is airtight and burnished, not digital-crisp. Bass lines bubble, hi-hats gleam, and the songwriting is—get this—respectable. Blame that on Jackson’s influences, some of whom join him, some of whom he tastefully samples: Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame, the Slits, Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins. “Number One” sets the tone for this Key Biscayne of the mind: “I’m the kind of cat who always gets his bird,” Luca Santucci sings, not altogether convincingly. But by the chorus, with its falsetto “ooh yeahs,” you’re out of Luca’s dreams and into his car. And so it goes, through contributions from the likes of Kathleen Hanna (the dubbed-up groover “Bring It On”) and hip-house pioneer KC Flightt (remember “Planet E”?), whose lightweight rap on “Front 2 Back” is reprised in a bonus Fatboy Slim remix. The only real stumble here is a superfluous cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” sung by Shinehead, which would be innocuous without some dude phoning in hipster exhortations such as “leave your lover, dawg.” But at no point does the weight of Jackson’s Rolodex threaten to sink his groove—a forgotten lesson, apparently, of the decade he so lovingly sends up. Hey, Don Johnson, here’s just the man for your comeback LP. —Andrew Beaujon