YOU'RE SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE

Juliette and the Licks

Okay, let's get the snickering over with, shall we?

Yes, Juliette and the Licks is fronted by Juliette Lewis, the actress whose best performance was back in 1991 when she delivered a Lolita star turn in Martin Scorsese's ultracreepy remake of "Cape Fear."

Since then, Lewis has had plenty of what Hollywood types like to call "work," but "You're Speaking My Language" is easily her best outing. Studded with fuzzed-out rockers ("So Amazing," "Seventh Sign") and new wave spaz attacks ("Money in My Pocket," "Got Love to Kill"), the disc pays playful homage to decades-old records the starlet-turned-rocker probably found stashed in her parents' basement.

The album's title track is a prime example, a chunka-chunka guitar workout that connects the dots between Iggy Pop and Patti Smith with method-acting precision. Elsewhere, Lewis and her band channel schmaltz-rock Svengali Jim Steinman (of Meat Loaf infamy, among others) for "By the Heat of Your Light," a track that flirts with but, mercifully, never quite goes all the way into power ballad territory.

Not surprisingly, Lewis's album occasionally feels contrived, almost cartoonish, and some of the tunes just plain don't work. Case in point: plodding set-closer "Long Road Out of Here," which sounds like Fiona Apple playing an old Supertramp tune -- and not one of that band's three good ones, either.

Ultimately, though, Lewis is a pretty convincing vocalist -- part Janis Joplin, part PJ Harvey. And like an ace movie remake, her first album has the charm of a true fan trying hard to live up to the spirit of the original.

-- Shannon Zimmerman