Man, are things FUBAR in the world today. To wit: the crisis in Darfur. Not that you should need prodding to donate desperately needed humanitarian aid, but this week the folks at Waxploitation have made it easier to help with the release of Causes 1: Darfur. No mere charity case, this album’s a quality compilation of exclusive and rare tracks donated by heavyweight indie acts like Bloc Party, Spoon, the Shins, Animal Collective, the Black Keys and the (International) Noise Conspiracy. The first in a planned series, this effort is serious about its mission; 100 percent of proceeds from sales go to three noble nonprofits: Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam America. Beginning this week, the 14-track comp is available on iTunes for only 90 days.

“We’ve made a conscious decision to create a sense of urgency – to mirror what is a dire situation in Darfur,” says Waxploitation founder Jeff Antebi. “It’s not just a symbolic gesture. These nonprofits need help there now.”

As in, what are you waiting for, dummy?

The beat

New York’s Coheed & Cambria headlined House of Blues Nov. 19. On their albums, this band sounds like ambition gone horribly wrong: Emo, progressive rock and metal clamber loudly over each other for the spotlight. A disastrous soup of clashing aesthetics and bombast, their nerdy, epic storylines turn up the pomp a few more unneeded notches. For all of these trespasses, I wanted to hate them … bad.

But the increased brawn of the live context muted many of their undesirable qualities, resulting in a much more streamlined and proportionate sound. I honestly didn’t get the Rush comparisons that critics slap them with until I saw them live. Singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez’s voice bears a striking resemblance to Geddy Lee’s, which definitely ranks higher in my book than the wailing of some emo eunuch. Having suppressed much of what’s annoying about them live, I gotta admit, they did not suck. But the two female backup singers? C’mon, man.

In a command opening performance, however, Maryland’s Clutch owned it. Next to Coheed’s high-strung conceit, their low-down, not-messin’-around rock was an odd contrast. A mammoth union of hard rock, metal and blues, this is some of the toughest rock music being made. Everything about their sound was essential; nothing felt ornamental. Almost nobody balances menace and soul like Clutch.

The inimitable Melt Banana totally fried Back Booth Nov. 20. Did I say Melt Banana? Try Melt Face. Tossing breakneck hardcore punk and overdriven electronics into a blender, they ignited the joint with a searing blast of noise rock. And standing next to guitarist Agata’s amp was a mistake. Despite stuffing just about an entire roll of toilet paper in my ears, it still made a milkshake outta my brain. Though singularly intense and packed with squealing freakouts, the set carried a uniquely Japanese brand of playfulness. Sorta like a cuddly bomb.

Yo, DJ

I recently sussed out some new DJ nights, and here are a couple you should consider. If you have a demanding musical palate, but a low threshold for the idiot parade downtown can be on weekends, Tuesdays are prime for hittin’ Orange Avenue since Phat-N-Jazzy, the Social’s smart hip-hop night, and Grits & Gravy, Independent Bar’s soul night, are just two doors apart, and between the two lies Bar-BQ-Bar’s Mile High Hi-Fi Club. Helmed by DJs FameThrowa and Koolbreeze, residents of Pulp Fridays at Tampa nightclub Czar, this night throws the doors of genre wide open, which is quite liberating. Indie, punk, hip-hop, electro – whatever shakes the hipsters is what they’ll drop.

Speaking of open formats, DJ Smilin’ Dan is sprawling genres as well at Independent Bar for Barbarella Wednesdays. Originally structured as a ’90s alt-rock night, it’s now retooled for those music fans who understand that good music isn’t bound to just one stripe. He may go from T.Rex to Voxtrot to Datarock. The only constraint: no cheesy requests. I quote: “These include Journey, Vanilla Ice, Britney Spears, etc. If you want to hear those, go down to one of the Church Street bars.”

I’ve heard some of the old-schoolers complaining recently about not having much of a reason to go downtown anymore. Well, before the words “whippersnapper” and “23 skidoo” creep into your vocab, your crusty highness, relocate your mojo by checking this out.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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