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80s clubland legend Grace Jones returns with Hurricane, a patchy but fascinating comeback record.
Anne Sexton, 07 Nov 2008
It really does feel like the ‘80s are back for an encore. The economy is in the toilet, dole queues are getting longer and Grace Jones is releasing albums again – Hurricane is her first in almost twenty years.
Jones apparently had some difficulty finding a label for Hurricane, and it’s easy to see why. Not that it’s not good, in places it is, but it’s a hard album to classify. Hurricane is a mixed bag of musical styles featuring collaborations with the likes of Brian Eno, Wendy and Lisa, Sly and Robbie and Tricky.
Overall Hurricane lacks cohesion and at times it feels a bit like you’re playing spot the influence: shades of Massive Attack, Laurie Anderson and Kraftwerk to name a few. The opening track, ‘This Is’, caused this listener to do a double take, as in parts it’s uncannily similar to the really obscure Kalahari Surfers track ‘Limpet Mine’. Odd that!
‘Williams’ Blood’, a tribute to her mother’s family line, has an almost gospel feel with a choir, handclaps, a refrain and even a verse of ‘Amazing Grace’ (and no, she’s not being tongue-in-cheek here). It’s the reggae inspired tracks, ‘Well, Well, Well’ and ‘Love You To Life’ that are the weakest on the album. Jones is at her best when channelling her electronic diva and while there’s nothing to equal the brilliance of ‘Warm Leatherette’ or ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ both ‘Corporate Cannibal’ and ‘This Is’ are strong.
Lyrically Jones is all over the place. The title-track is a sparse electronic meander into a bizarre mind, featuring the improbable lyric, “I can give birth to sheep!” The strongest track, ‘Corporate Cannibal’ bludgeons its message of greed home, but then includes the line “slave to the rhythm of the corporate prison”, a clever allusion to one of Jones’ biggest hits.
Hurricane sounds like much of it has been lifted straight out of the ‘80s. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s this year’s fashionable era so she’s right on the money there. For all its problems, in fact, Hurricane is much better than the sum of its parts. Jones comes from an era where an artist’s ability to be a star, not just a celebrity was as important, if not moreso than the music itself. One thing Grace Jones has always had is star quality in abundance: in the end, it still shines through here.