You know Vice Records? Right, right, it's the record label arm of everyone's favorite nihilistic hipster publication, Vice Magazine. Since the whole Vice empire is known for its haughty irreverence, one wonders whether the day has come for the magazine to start making fun of the label. I may as well save them the awkwardness by beginning the ridicule right now. Here's the deal: Vice Records has announced plans to team up with other big indies, potentially including Matador and Sub Pop, to release a series of compilations akin to the nauseatingly popular Now That's What I Call Music series. Targeted to what Vice's general manager Adam Shore called the "very casual record buyer," the albums will include such crossover (oh man, if there was ever a word to make you barf, that's the one) artists as Bloc Party, Silversun Pickups, Bright Eyes, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, as well as erstwhile indies like Sonic Youth (say it ain't so, Thurston!) and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Shore, who may just be considering a switch from crotch-hugging jeans to Armani suits, risking unfavorable photos in Vice Magazine's "Dos and Don'ts" section, further explained: "We're partnering with MTV2, and the focus is going to be Wal-Marts, big box stores, red states, and TV advertising — to really go beyond.... We don't really expect indie-rock stores to support this record." Hey, don't worry about biting the hand that feeds you, dude. And while you're at it, let's hope no one reads into your statement and realizes that what you're really saying is that you're dumbing down indie rock for a mainstream audience -- a proposition that's insulting to both the genre's current audience and the faceless masses for which the compilations are intended. Let's go one further and think about what it means that Wal-Mart and red states represent the kind of audience that indie labels are trying to reach. The word "indie," derived from the word "independent" and carrying the connotation of difference and iconoclasm, has died infinite deaths in the past few years, but that doesn't make this one any less gruesome. On the bright side, I can't wait to see the TV commercials.