Remember the old line DJs used to trot out about "taking you on a journey" and providing "history lessons"? That's usually not the point—but when a jock that knows her stuff and gets lucky in the licensing department decides to trace some crucial steps I find it hard to resist. Take last year's FabricLive 36, in which James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem redrew disco as a music of hard-hitting minimalism. Using only the breakdown of Instant Funk's "I've Got My Mind Made Up": borderline sacrilege, absolute genius.
This is the territory Poplife Sucks claims, with the focus shifted forward to 1981-84. Which means you get a compilation that melds Liquid Liquid's super-obvious "Cavern" into the Time's super-obvious "Jungle Love." It's the best segue of the year, as shrewd in its way as Dolly Parton --> Royksopp on 2002's As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 2. The difference is that 2 Many DJ's were showing off their mixing skills; the Glimmers and Olivier Tjon of the Belgian club night Poplife (and the Entrepreneur, credited with "editing") simply lay their best stuff end-to-end. Poplife Sucks' tunes are overlapped slightly, not DJ’ed, resulting in the kinds of transitions whose occasional abruptness pulls you in rather than kills the mood.
The Entrepreneur's edits are audible if you're familiar with some of what's here already: "Jungle Love" jumps to the guitar solo right in the middle of Morris Day announcing, "Hey, Jesse--n', now Jerome"—"Jerome" doesn't appear. Borderline sacrilege, but the absolute genius is the way it's positioned in the mix, right before the Glimmers' own cover of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical," a record so ridiculously trashy it wore my guard down within two plays. But that may just be because it's between "Jungle Love" and Liaisons Dangereuses' "Los Ninos del Parque." You never know with these things.
Eclectic DJ mixes often feel show-offy, but the Glimmers and Tjon's selections are mind-bogglingly sneaky and generous. I didn't know I needed to hear "We Are Your Friends" in anyone's mix again, but lo and behold; ditto "Windowlicker"; hell, I've never been much of a Japan fan and "Adolescent Sex" positively slays here. And, when they do show off, it's worthy of a Crate-Digger Holy-Shit Award: Adriano Celentano's "Prisencolinensinainciusol" sounds like a hip-hop prototype with samba horns, the heaviest-footed drums imaginable, and gnarled-wool guitar scrawling away somewhere in the background. Apparently a video of this 1973 gem has been bouncing around on YouTube. Start there. You will not be sorry.
Buy Various Artists - Poplife™ Presents Poplife Sucks at
Tracklist: Various Artists - Poplife™ Presents Poplife Sucks 01. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome
02. Moloko - The Time Is Now
03. The Chaplin Band - Il Veliero (4:14)
04. Adriano Celentano - Prisencolinensinainciusol
05. Japan - Adolescent Sex
06. Jacknife Lee - Making Me Money (Switch Remix)
07. Brandon Cooke & Roxanne Shante - Sharp As A Knife
08. Simian Mobile Disco - We Are Your Friends
09. Manu Dibango - Abele Dance
10. Kid Frost - La Raza
11. Liquid, Liquid - Cavern
12. The Time - Jungle Love
13. The Glimmers - Physical
14. Liaisons Dangereuses - Los Niños Del Parque
15. 16 Bit - Where Are You?
16. Erotic Dissidents - Move Your Feet And Feel The Beat
17. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Fruitness Mix)
18. Material - Don't Lose Control
19. Aphex Twin - Windowlicker