Paul Anka doing a swing album of alternative rock songs turned out to be a bad idea, because the people involved didnâ€™t treat those songs with respect and/or understanding. Get this disk instead. Nouvelle Vague is a French band with two clever producers at the helm and rotating eight breathy-voiced female singers (supposedly picked because they were unfamiliar with the original versions); they play a series of familiar punk and new wave classics in bossa nova style. Every song remains immediately recognizable (not true on Ankaâ€™s album) and most are sung (or at times recited) quite earnestly, with the drastic exception of the Dead Kennedyâ€™s â€œToo Drunk to Fuck,â€ which is giggled through with full awareness of its inherent sarcasm and as an expression of the protagonistâ€™s inebriated condition. Bossa nova in its time and place (Brazil, 1960s) was as radical as punk and new wave, musically and sometimes politically (though, letâ€™s face it, new wave such as Modern Englishâ€™s â€œIâ€™ll Melt with Youâ€ isnâ€™t overthrowing anything). Thus, â€œGuns of Brixtonâ€ is not diluted here. Sure, the raging guitars and Paul Simononâ€™s blustering voice are absent, but they are replaced with a different kind of tension, and the smoldering intensity of the songâ€™s opening question â€“ â€œWhen they kick at your front door, how you gonna come? With your hands on your head, or the trigger of your gun?â€ â€“ is drained of all residual machismo and is purely the compelling sociopolitical choice the Clash intended. This style is perfectly suited to the discontent of Joy Divisionâ€™s â€œLove will Tear Us Apart,â€ the Specialsâ€™ â€œFriday Night and Saturday Morning,â€ and Depeche Modeâ€™s â€œJust Canâ€™t Get Enough,â€ with the exuberance of the latter echoed in the Undertonesâ€™ â€œTeenage Kicks.â€ Public Image Ltd.â€™s â€œThis Is Not a Love Songâ€ takes on an extra layer of irony when itâ€™s not John Lydonâ€™s snarling singing, but rather a cooly detached femaleâ€™s, and the question of whether or not itâ€™s a love song is less obviously defined. Yes, thereâ€™s a certain degree of humor involved in the switch of styles here, but this album is much more than a one-note joke. And that these songs work so well in a completely different context proves just how well-written they are â€“ minus angry guitars and safety pins, or synthesizers and moussed hair, they still make their points magnificently. - Steve Holtje Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based former editor of Creem Magazine and CDNow.com, editor of the acclaimed MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide, and contributor to The Big Takeover, Early Music America, and many other hip periodicals. He is a buyer at Sound Fix, a hot new record store in Williamsburg.