MATADOR RECORDS is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. But if you listened to Everything is Nice--supposedly the memorial compendium--you'd wonder what all the fuss is about. Far from sounding like a worthy summation of a label that, in its glory, defined an era, it sounds like a sampler from a fledgling upstart, bereft of talent or imagination. What's shameful is that given the enormous vaults they could pillage, Matador instead chose to offer what is essentially a "current hits" sampler. A novice wouldn't even know that there actually is some history behind the label (conversely, today's rock literati cut their teeth on at least one of two Matador albums: Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted or Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville).

With 10 years in the indie spectrum, they could've really gone to the well and packed this sampler with rarities, B-sides, etc., like the Pavement EP Watery, Domestic from several years ago. Instead all we get is "Stereo" from Brighten the Corners and an alt-take of "Grounded," neither of which make a convincing argument for that group's inevitable enshrinement. Meanwhile, Phair is not represented, probably because they sold her contract to Capitol like the good capitalists they've always been. And considering what they've replaced her with, it was probably a loss they couldn't afford. Somehow I doubt any major label reps are lining up outside the offices of 625 Broadway in a bidding war over Bardo Pond (not to mention the wretched Jon Spencer Blues Explosion).

Five years ago, it could be argued that virtually anyone who mattered in the world of post-Cobain alt-rock recorded for Matador. Now, in the micro-diversifying spectrum of the modern entertainment industry, Matador's once exalted position as tastemakers--who could outshoot the majors when it came to perceiving the Next Big Thing--is hopelessly outmoded. And while one cannot help but love Guitar Wolf's hammering "Fujiyama Attack" or Helium's celestial "Cosmic Rays," neither is exactly a revelation. And where the hell is Bailter Space, the SF Seals, Run On, Mecca Normal, Come, and Bettie Serveert? Surely we could've benefited from at least one cut apiece by these artists. Everything is Nice, huh? How about, Everything is Nice sucks.

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