Horrible cover art: dead-eyed woman passively mouthing barber pole in the manner of Patrick Nagel, ’80s Playboy magazine icon. But to my ear this is the compilation of the year. Not a mix: these 19 tracks, selected by the Glimmers and Olivier Tjon of the Belgian club night Poplife (the CD is an anniversary celebration), are overlapped slightly, not DJ’ed. And it comes closer than any comp I know to matching—in spirit if not sound—Tommy Boy’s criminally out of print The Perfect Beats, Vol. 2. The two comps share one track (Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern”), but where The Perfect Beats is an after-the-fact time capsule, Poplife Sucks speaks to the present. Its sensibility is a current one—disco and/or electro revivalism, yes, but without succumbing to retro cute or wedding-DJ cheesiness.
Besides, “Cavern” charges right into the Time’s “Jungle Love”—the most thrilling, and hilarious, segue I heard all year. And the Glimmers and Tjon’s choices are all over the place in the best way. The track list is like a smart collector’s want list, resurrecting the forgotten likes of Brandon Cooke & Roxanne Shanté’s “Sharp as a Knife” and Kid Frost’s “La Raza,” as well as throwing in newer cuts like Switch’s remix of Jacknife Lee’s “Making Me Money.” The find for me was Adriano Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” from 1973 (video above), which sounds like it could have been made tomorrow with someone’s trusty sampler. It says a lot about Poplife Presents Poplife Sucks that it wouldn’t even need its best selection to sound as great as it does.