Grace Jones: Hurricane (Review)

Grace Jones is ferocious. She is a frightening, feisty glamazon that seems to be ignoring the banality of the process known as aging with her bold, chiseled features and statuesque natural beauty. She is a style icon and a pop culture legend, entirely approachable in person and staggeringly intimidating on stage. Simply speaking, I just cannot get enough.

Her latest release is the appropriately entitled Hurricane, a title that partially represents the sheer and utter surge of all-out energy that Jones provides in her live performances, music, and, well–her general existence.

Fans following the trajectory of the album release have most likely already heard the first third of the album, “This Is Life” leaking only a few days after the premiere of “Corporate Cannibal” during her set at this year’s Secret Garden Party. Still, the lead-off track remains unwaveringly cool, confident, and strong: A perfect way to set the mood of the album.

“William’s Blood” follows, which is currently set for release as the album’s second single. Just as upon first listen, I remain somewhat underwhelmed. It’s a powerful builder, but its personal connections create an atmosphere of imposition for me; Jones seems to be spilling the family secrets, and I don’t want to be there to hear it! It’s gorgeous nonetheless, and certainly a worthy addition to the album.

Then there’s “Corporate Cannibal,” my favorite track off the album, and the track that started off the Hurricane blitz earlier this year. It’s not particularly interesting in terms of musical composition, but the unwaveringly demonic, sing-songy set of intimidation is right up my alley, mashing evil with a minimal backing melody.

At a near polar opposite is the next track, “I’m Crying (Mothers Tears),” which, like “William’s Blood,” feels far too personal and delicate for that of Jones’ typical body of work, and as a result seems strangely out of place. It’s beautiful no doubt, but a complete break in the character that is Grace Jones. For some, that could be seen as a positive growth: I remain slightly unconvinced.

The title track “Hurricane” has been sculpted and molded in its production over the years, originally due for release on a soundtrack during the ’90’s. Luckily, it’s worked itself onto a major release, and for good reason. Dotted with sparks of electro and a slow grow of string work, it’s as achingly indulgent as any of Grace’s masterpieces, yet displays a clear evolution in the artist’s work. It’s an appropriate track to base the release upon, operating as a perfect representation of the Grace effect.

It is precisely during the first few seconds of “Well, Well, Well” that the Grace Jones of the ’80’s we know and love comes sauntering in with that iconic, shimmering island beat, as glossy and calculated as any other track recorded during the pinnacle of the Compass Point sessions. “Love You to Life” continues in much of the same spirit as far as the song is concerned, and the vocal delivery an even more evident return to form. Sing-speaking at one octave below alarming, Jones hurries along her signature, stinging questions that grow increasingly existential as time passes: “ould your dark heart be contagious? Would you pray for someone’s demise? If there is no law, there are no crimes. Is fear the air you breathe? Breathe,” she purrs, allowing the choir-filled chorus to spill into the airwaves.

“Sunset Sunrise” drips with a cool, trickling condensation of swagger, incorporating island beats. Jones’ ominous omnipresence prevails, provoking a kind of isolated terror within the harmless swing of the horns and percussions. With one last growling stroke of tripping damnation (similar to that of “Corporate Cannibal” and “Hurricane”), “Devil In My Life” twists the knife one step further, a morbid, beckoning seduction of grinding synthesizers, whizzing electro whistles, and echoing, murderous moments. The track builds, burns beautifully, and grinds to a slow, aching halt.

Sadly, here the album draws to an abrupt close. It is an album that follows an eighteen year hiatus: A period of time complete with two near-album releases, followed by long years of unbroken silence. For the casual listener, a nine track album could be seen as unfortunately pre-mature. To Grace enthusiasts? It’s a fucking crime. In hindsight, the number of tracks offered may have as well been as little as nine, because as far as I’m concerned, a triple-CD collection would have barely suited my desires.

And so, we have Hurricane, a return to form that easily trumps the uninspired Bulletproof Heart, which felt like an attempt to fit into the status quo with a more mainstream sound. A slight misstep, undoubtedly brought about by the increasing influence of Jones’ record company.

As a good friend of mine explained, Hurricane operates better in theory than in execution: The album could never perform as imagined. It seems unoriginal at times; unfulfilling at others. Most of the tracks have sprinklings of that familiar island sound with a modern electronic glossing, but there’s something un-monumental about the entire experience.

In a way, I fear this is the end. I don’t foresee Jones stepping back into the studio at any point in the near future, and it’s unlikely that any of the previous sessions will leak. It’s worrisome to say the least, but a probable reality . While I cannot describe this release as entirely fulfilling, but it does accomplish its own moment of finality in tying together the strings of Grace’s musical career.

For the sake of optimism, let’s hope she proves me wrong and comes back swinging with an entire slew of new albums. As usual, it’s Grace who says it best: “If I could have my way, there would never be an end to this beginning.”

DL: Grace Jones – Hurricane
DL: Grace Jones – Love You To Life
DL: Grace Jones – Corporate Cannibal

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