Once More With Feeling 

addVice for Bloc Party

I feel the need to get this out of the way in the first sentence, just to clear the air: Bloc Party are not a terrible band. That said, Bloc Party are also not a particularly great band. And while it may initially seem superfluous to address these facts in print, it's becoming a necessary filter in face of the blurring amount of hype that surrounds Bloc Party. While it's not the fault of the band, it's safe to say that they are more known for the attention paid to them than the music they make.

So when the boys of Bloc Party accept their NME Award/Mercury Prize, or whatever cute statuettes are given out at award ceremonies to marginally talented bands of note, they sure as hell ought to spend a few words thanking those behind all this madness--a little company called Vice. As in the magazine, the record label, the marketing company, the retail stores, etc. While hipster America's mesh cap was hung snugly over our eyes, the media/lifestyle empire of Vice bloomed to become a corporate giant, now with offices the world over. What started out as a Montreal-based magazine soon moved to Brooklyn at a time when no one outside the five boroughs knew what Williamsburg was. Now the magazine has expanded dramatically, and with it, Vice's stranglehold on youth culture and verbal lexicon. Besides being the record label behind Bloc Party, they also operate addVice, a marketing firm whose nefarious mission statement declares "the subversive nature of our street and lifestyle marketing, on-line campaign, and cross-promotions will ensure the audience potential is realized despite any roadblocks set-up by mainstream media." Hype, by all means necessary.

At the end of the day it's hard to fault Bloc Party for the wheels of corporate progress that spin behind them, but at the same time, it's particularly hard to accept them. Does buying their CD (one of the first non-compilations ever to be sold at Urban Outfitters), by the same token, make you part of the Vice world? Because after all, as addVice so eloquently puts it, "Vice guides its community on what records to buy, what fashion labels to seek out, and other facets of daily life and consumerism." Or does the severe right-wing agenda of Vice owner Gavin McInnes (check out his 2003 column in American Conservative magazine, http://www.amconmag.com/08_11_03/feature.html) bring into question the motivations behind the company? This column is far too small to explore the cold-hearted depths of the music industry, but at a time when hype outweighs content and exposure means more than substance, it's not a bad idea to ask why every now and then. So, why Bloc Party? Anyone?

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