So soon after one major storm has blown through our lives, another, significantly more powerful one is about to hit. When you hear Grace Jones open her new album Hurricane with the fierce proclamation, “This is my voice / My weapon of choice,” you’re inclined to believe she could destroy anything in her path with just a few contractions of those monumental vocal chords. Compared to her, Irene was a rather demure lass.
Ms. Jones, it must first be said, is now curiously recontextualized, as she is still deeply linked with the particular cultural juxtapositions of the era that made her a superstar. When punk and disco were fighting it out, she commanded them both to do her bidding; and she was the very personification of 80’s glamour and extravagance, while also epitomizing a new kind of raw female power, which refused to accept weepy, huggy XX-chromosome stereotypes (though the era of Lilith Fair would soon put them right back in place.)
And where Lady Gaga is really more of a postmodern Colorforms set, utterly reliant on the goofy, shiny accoutrements, Grace’s incomparable sense of style has always radiated strictly from within; she was a superheroine, and the clothes were merely her sidekicks. Still, it’s incomprehensible, considering how deeply the Jamaican-American goddess is psychically linked with New York City, that it has taken two years for Hurricane to secure a US release (out this week on PIAS America, packaged with a second disk of dub versions). Produced by Ivor Guest and with an estimable cast of guests including Tricky, Brian Eno, and Sly & Robbie, it’s Jones at her thundering best; which, of course, only makes the delayed release all the more baffling.
The album’s most ferocious track, “Corporate Cannibal”, contains probably the most amazing white-collar-crime / sexual-predator couplet ever: “Pleased to have you on my plate / Your meat is sweet to me.” It draws a straight line from Gordon Gekko to Goldman Sachs over some of the most terrifyingly thrilling dub-metal since Massive Attack’s Mezzanine album. “Well Well Well” and “Sunset Sunrise” are signature slices of only-as-Grace-could-do-them post-punk-post-disco reggae.
She’s up to far more than her usual tricks, though. “The Devil In My Life” is an eerie, almost gothic affair (fittingly, she wrote it in Venice), with Grace despairing, “Isn’t it a crying shame / That you became the devil in my life.” But it’s the haunting, epic title track that seems most revealing, as Ms. Jones, over a mournful orchestral sweep, seems to lament all that we are capable of creating and yet all that we leave destroyed in out paths.
“I am woman, I am sun / I can give birth to she, I can give birth to son” she howls on “Hurricane”, before roaring out the malevolent declaration that she’ll, “Be a hurricane, ripping up trees.”
You’ve been warned.