This Little Underground

Fresh out of the oven is Causes 2, the second edition of Waxploitation's Darfur benefit series. Though 100 percent of its profits will go to the noble likes of Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam America, this compilation album isn't just some token charity gesture. Rather, it's a showcase of indie heavyweights bringing their A-game in rare and exclusive songs. Like its strong predecessor, Causes 1, only better, the artist selection here is varied and tasteful. It features choice moments like Black Moth Super Rainbow rockin' some beats and Diplo droppin' the breaks. It also packs some surprises, like a surprisingly intelligible Devendra Banhart bustin' some impassioned indie reggae. Hell, even the Decemberists drop the stuffy English-lit bit and get down and soulful in a twangy little flower that bests their entire last album. Philanthropic mission aside, even the most selfish bastard will eat up the high-quality tracks.

The beat

Looking for a right manly way to kick off my always mega-macho weekends, I nearly went to see STEMM (May 1, the Haven). Y'see, I'm a huge mixed martial arts fan and they're the band that penned the official UFC theme song. Then I suddenly came to my senses and thought, wait, I'm first and foremost a music fan. So rather than endure a crap nü-metal band, much less having someone get all Junie Browning on me at the pool table, I went for the real McCoy hard stuff.

First, there was the Viking metal of Swedish death-dealers Amon Amarth (Club Firestone), who are kinda funny but always good. The more potent fury, however, was down the street with Seattle's Big Business (the Social), whose sonic stampede lands with the subtlety of a cyclone. But as gay as I am for this band, I'm not totally sold on their new sonic explorations. What's more, they've added a completely unnecessary third member on guitar. Not to put an Asian brutha out of business or anything, but they need to lose that cat. The guitar blunts the brute gorgeousness that made Big Business. They're still beastly, though, and it's always impressive being face-to-face with their live savagery, particularly the rhythmic relentlessness of drummer Coady Willis.

Opening duo Tweak Bird was pure dope. The Illinois brothers (whose last names are actually Bird) are nerdy oddballs when they're not playing but instantly transform into total rock gods when they do. They too deal in hard-ass rock, only with more bluesy sexuality and enough dick-swing to jack the Fahrenheit. Throw some stoner and psych hues into the mix, drive it till it's a wicked groan and there you have it. Like a more daring Wolfmother, Tweak Bird killed it with high efficiency and maximum dynamics.

The heavyweight bill of Cursive and Man Man (April 29-30, the Social) did a two-night stand. The madcap Man Man always brings it. Cursive, however, is a more complicated deal. I like them all right, but the Omaha flagship band has never managed to weave their way into my musical DNA. The forceful moments of their set had big thrills but the rest of the time left me cold and wondering what the fuck the big deal is.

Yet another shining star found in the bright Florida post-rock constellation is Tampa's Tape Delay (April 29, Back Booth). This band's arrangements are built on uplifting notes aimed at the stratosphere; they don't dangle in the brooding void that's systemic to the genre. Not saying there's anything wrong with it — it's often key to the expressive power of post-rock — but these guys opt to spend their time spreading their huge crystalline wings and piercing the heavens in triumphant, silvery spires. It's a gesture that adds enough listenability to beckon even those who don't necessarily flip over post-rock. The Tape Delay has smarts that are neither willful nor indulgent.

Local headliners the Great Deceivers have resurfaced with a leaner, retooled four-piece lineup. Subtracting personnel has actually brought more focus to their sound. They've always demonstrated an ability for nuance, but the new roster brings some rock beef that adds more salience and definition to their indie folk. Possibly the biggest difference was the greater confidence that frontman Max Green has developed on guitar and vocals.

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