The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Grace Jones
Hurricane Luke Turner , November 7th, 2008 11:07

Grace Jones - Hurricane

In the years since Grace Jones' last foray into recorded music, female artistes have increasingly been forced into major label-defined sonic and aesthetic roles, be that the saccharine cooing of stool-bound R&B, the belt-it-out, HRT diva Power Of A Woman compilation fodder, or the creepy allure of the post-Disney pop starlet. By contrast on Hurricane Jones' womanhood is as ever it was, from the artwork to Island Life, to her skillful reinterpretations ('Warm Leatherette', 'Nightclubbing' et al), her statuesque poise - stern, confused, perplexing, angry, political, and hard as nails.

Hurricane explores a life built on experience, of inner strength and a refusal to conform to accepted norms - as she tells us on the opening track, "this is the story I didn't make up - this is life". So 'Williams' Blood' and 'I'm Crying (Mother's Tears)' are eloquent explorations of Jones' hitherto relatively unknown religious upbringing. Throughout, her toughness comes to the fore - on the superlative title track, written in collaboration with Tricky, she snaps, fruitily "I am she / I can give birth to sun / I can be cool / Soft as the breeze / I can be a hurricane / ripping up trees" - not bad going when you reach 60.

Musically, she's brought in a bewildering array of collaborators. As well as the aforementioned Bristolian, longtime recording partners Sly and Robbie and guitarist Barry Reynolds join forces with the likes of Brian Eno, Adam Green and Ant Genn, the man who jumped around naked onstage with Elastica at Glastonbury 1995.

Using these disparate talents, some of whom are also involved in her songwriting team, Jones has created one of the most sprightly and assured albums you'll hear this year. The terrific production knows exactly when to ratchet up the menace, the sex, the emotion, the dance and, crucially, not becomes overblown. There are clever, awkward touches, such as the cowbell that tocks away, almost unaware of the crunching guitar and strings, in the chorus of 'Williams Blood' (originally intended to be called 'Keeping Up With The Jones') which ends with the audacious singing of a few lines of 'Amazing Grace' - in the larynx of any other artist, this would feel like hubris, in Jones' never. 'Well Well Well', on the other hand, is flickering light reggae with a decidedly breezy chorus. It's sensual as her previous work, yet both contemporary and futuristic - you can't help but feel that it's the sort of record that Massive Attack would be making were they still up to the task.

Contrast this with the increasingly vapid efforts put out by Madonna, ten years Jones' junior. Where Madonna once again fails to rise to the challenge and contribute anything to culture's understanding of aging womanhood beyond the second wedding hen party in Basingstoke, Jones is still predatory, powerful, intimidating and beautiful, a drinking, smoking, flirtatious and fucking woman in the prime of her life.

But more than that, Hurricane shows that in her sixty-first year, Jones is as a timeless, immortal, meta-Grace, an Orlando for mean modern life, for chrome dancefloors, and polysexual boudoirs alike.