Some of Bob Mould's longtime fans feared that the former leader of Husker Du and Sugar had laid down his insanely fuzz-driven guitar for good following the mostly electronic, mostly lame 2002 solo album, "Modulate." A kinder, gentler Mould seemed to think he'd done as much as he could in the rock world, and his new gig writing television scripts for pro wrestling apparently held more allure.

Thankfully, "Body of Song" is a welcome return to form. Though it never rises to the level of tuneful intensity provided by Husker Du, it does equal the best of Mould's five earlier solo discs, 1989's "Workbook" and 1990's "Black Sheets of Rain." (I never cared much for the songwriter's second trio and preferred to remain Sugar-free: It felt like an obvious attempt to cash in on the Nirvana/grunge bonanza that Husker Du had helped inspire in the first place.)

The ferocious guitar is back in a big way; the rhythms often kick with a considerable fury, thanks to visiting Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, and while Mould may be a happier man these days, there's still plenty of his patented angst and cathartic screaming on tunes such as "Circles," "Underneath Days" and "Beating Heart the Prize." But he also uses electronics to enhance many of the songs, primarily through tasteful guitar loops, and several ballads provide welcome breathers in between the more brutal assaults.

Despite a recent two-song appearance with former Huskers partner Grant Hart at a benefit for the late Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller, Mould maintains that there is no chance of a Pixies- or Dinosaur, Jr.-style reunion. "I just don't have that kind of music in me anymore," Mould says, but the best moments on "Body of Song" prove otherwise. Husker Du would be one comeback actually worth celebrating, but until then, we have this disc to turn up loud.



Some hard-core hip-hop fans are dissing the sixth album from rapper and producer Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, since it was crafted largely without the help of her regular collaborator Timbaland (the two have made for one of the most groundbreaking pairings in hip-hop history) and it continues a shift away from the underground toward more mainstream sounds ("This ain't no rap record/Get back to the hook," she raps in "Time and Time Again"). But despite a handful of tracks that fall flat (a la the soggy soul ditties "My Man" and "Meltdown"), overall, "The Cookbook" is a tasty gumbo mixing bizarro-world grooves, indelible pop melodies, old-school rapping and new wave sonics.

Elliott's strength has never been her lyrics or her rapping; she has always been best at crafting strange but memorable soundscapes and infusing them with her larger-than-life personality, and she doesn't really need Timbaland for either. The Neptunes help Elliott channel the vintage psychedelic funk of Parliament-Funkadelic with "On & On"; her duel with pioneering rapper Slick Rick on "Irresistible Delicious" is just that; "Lose Control" finds her besting the crunk crowd at their own game, and the disc ends on a high note with "Bad Man," an inspired pairing with the much-lauded Sri Lankan/British rapper M.I.A., who sounds even better in this context than she does on her own "Arular."