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She may be bossy, but that's not all

August 20, 2006|Ann Powers;Oliver Wang;Natalie Nichols

It's a savvy salvo in the rockist-popist wars, evoking such modern iconoclasts as Bjork, but when the fairy dust settles, this contest is a draw. The tap-dancing cabaret twist on Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" is laugh-out-loud subversive, and the smoky jazz club take on the Cramps' "Human Fly" is hepcat cool, but Nouvelle Vague's gauzy renditions of such fluff as Heaven 17's "Let Me Go" and Visage's "Fade to Grey" barely register, proving that, although not everything here is played for giggles, sometimes it is the song, not the singer.

Indeed, U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" isn't diminished at all by substituting Bono's aching wail for singer Birdpaula's melancholy testifying. If anything, beneath the deceptive pastoral sparkle, this tune celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King becomes even more forlorn and heartbreaking.

And if you want contemporary, NV's feral version of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" becomes as percussively thunderous as any Timbaland track. An often amusing exercise in turning darkness into light.

Natalie Nichols


Albums are rated on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor). Albums reviewed are in stores except as indicated.

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