Missy Elliott Da Real World (Gold Mind/EastWest) Flying in the face of notions of what a female rapper should say, do, and, most importantly, look like, Missy Elliott carved out a niche for herself at the intersection of rap credibility and pop icon-hood. Club walls reverberated with her whispered declarations, riding over the punishing double-time funk provided by her longtime collaborator Timbaland. MTV rotated her heavily, and thanks to Hype Williams (never one to slouch from a good ol' visual cornucopia), her image as an eccentric, fun-loving, oddly sexualized round-the-way girl was cemented. But now she's a bitch. Hip-hop's Nadine Strossen she ain't, but for the gladhanding Missy it's a fairly radical career move, giving her girl-power fan base a hint of danger and rebellion. In Da Real World, bitchdom lies at the nexus of money, power, respect, and, crucially, sex. It's about who you can fuck, and when. It's about who wants to fuck you, and why. It's about control, and have no doubts—it's Missy's world, and these wannabe players ain't nothing more than squirrels trying to get a nut. Check out "Hot Boyz," the album's most devastating cut. Cleverly capitalizing on the Dirty South catchphrase (and beating both Cash Money and No Limit to the punch to boot), Missy puts on her best bedroom voice, laying down the guidelines for her financier-to-be: "Is that your car?/The SK8/Are you riding alone?/Can I be your date?" These aren't questions; they're imperatives. Only a hot boy will do, because only a hot boy can keep up with her and not be threatened by her shine. As for everyone else, Missy sees right through them: "When you say my name, talk more junk, but won't look my way." Without question, the bitch of album two sounds a hell of a lot more cocksure than the fairy of number one. But growing pains scar. —Jon Caramanica
Hughscore Delta Flora (Cuneiform) Caveman Shoestore remains a fresh band no matter what its core members, bassist Fred Chalenor and accordionist Elaine di Falco, have decided to do with their idol, Hugh Hopper. Hailing from British avant-prog pioneers Soft Machine, Hopper owns the fuzz-lined bass sound that marks his original band's sound. But he also now co-owns Hughscore (once touted as Caveman Hughscore) with di Falco and Chalenor and an increasingly large cast. This collection of tunes shows off new elements, especially Tucker Martine's drumming and production. His own Mount Analog showed Martine to be an inventive soundscape artist, but his work here puts him in a camp far beyond many of his producing peers. He gives tunes a dub feel and manages to plaster so much over the top that horns just kind of wind out of the mix, making hangdog solos as keyboards twitter and pirouette underneath. Di Falco's lyrics and voice sound pristine, and one can't help but note the entrancing mix of pedal steel and all the thick bass, accordion, Fender Rhodes piano, and horns. Craig Flory does a great job on tenor, and fellow Soft Machine vet Elton Dean makes his own great show on alto. So much is going on here that it recalls the Golden Palominos' best moments, or something even better that escapes the mind as Hughscore camps out everywhere from the inner ear to the cerebellum with its reverb-soaked, winding paths of sonic majesty.—Andrew Bartlett
Mr. Bungle California (Warner Bros.) Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication (Warner Bros.) The Bay Area band Mr. Bungle has long existed in a kind of in-joke netherworld, dabbling in avant-jazz, donning clown masks, and otherwise thumbing its nose at pop-music convention. As these elements have become more palatable to the masses (clown masks being especially ubiquitous now), so has Mr. Bungle. The group received unlikely amounts of attention when vocalist Mike Patton became the frontman for metal-funksters Faith No More, but without proper band photos and tours, Mr. Bungle was still a hard sell. Its latest and third record, California, begins with a sweetly excessive approximation of Brit-pop that lasts for all of five minutes before the band gets bored and moves on to racier stuff like "Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy." It's almost as if they want to prove they can do melody at the drop of a hat, they just choose not to. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, on the other hand, sound as if they've run out of choices. The version of the Golden State that they propagate on their latest, Californication, is all hollow Hollywood Boulevard, with none of the freakiness of either San Francisco or the Red Hots' origins as P-Funk punks. Ever since the group hit big with "Under the Bridge," they seem to believe that introspective lyrics are one of their strengths. Exactly how wrong they are is apparent on soulless power ballads like the title cut. Despite his history with the band, guitarist John Frusciante sounds like just another hired gun, and producer Rick Rubin appears to be longing for his glory days with the Cult. Welcome to California. Now go home.—Jackie McCarthy
Mr. Bungle plays the Showbox Sunday, July 18.
June of 44 Anahata (Quarterstick) June of 44 is back with its fifth installment of water-related tunes—an album that the quartet's diehard fans are bound to either love or hate. Anahata, based on surgically reworked material from a year and a half of live performances, has the band leaving the safety of the deep and sinking its claws into dry land. Gone is the Slint and Rodan whisper/wail of previous releases, as the band fully embraces the dub-in-cheek rhythmic elements of 1998's Four Great Points, and produces a record of hazy grooves with a laid-back Fugazi bent. On Anahata, the Louisville band has come up with a set of consistent and, well, good songs. "Wear Two Eyes (Boom)" is Coltrane's "Ol颠on a death march, while "Equators to Bi-Polar" and "Southeast of Boston" show the band serving a little pop with its post-rock. "Peel Away Velleity" starts out as—dare I say it—Jane's Addiction, and ends up Miles Davis ࠬa In a Silent Way. And damn if "Five Bucks in My Pocket" isn't just funk-ay. In addition to all these wonderful moves, the record's artwork deserves special recognition, being composed of lovely photographs designed to lull you into passive appreciativeness. I'm a sucker for pretty pictures.—Jacob McMurray
June of 44 plays the Breakroom Tuesday, July 20.