Dance music icon Grace Jones has been setting trends since she was a regular at Studio 54, and much of the gender-bending dark glamour of today’s Gaga moment can be credited to her. Jones is smart enough to not chase current sounds (give or take a dubstep bass storm or two) or try too hard to prove her continued relevance on Hurricane, her first album of original material in more than two decades. Instead, she made the clubland answer to Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, in which she digs deep into her roots (in this case, reggae, New Wave, music theater and disco), reflects on what she’s learned, leans deeply into an older and wiser version of her classic persona…and then decides to throw a gigantic party. (Hey, I said it was the club answer to Dylan. Of course she threw a party.)
Much of Hurricane sounds like the aural equivalent of the most intimidating teacher at an English private school who parties her charges under the table and then dispenses a bit of wisdom. The autobiographical “Williams’ Blood,” co-written with Prince protégés Wendy & Lisa, builds from an easy skank to a belted testament to how music saved her life when her family wished she was more like her well-behaved siblings. On “Corporate Cannibal” she sends up her image as “a man eating machine” over cyborg riffs and rolling slabs of paranoid keyboards reminiscent of her acolytes in Massive Attack. She sounds open-hearted and comfortable across moods and genre on Hurricane, indulging on the title track in the power of strutting grooves, lacerating electro-squeals and “take no crap” attitude for its own sake, which is another form of hard-earned wisdom.
Hurricane was released in the U.K. a few years ago; for the American release it has been packaged with a second disc, Hurricane Dub. The new versions amp up the bass and echo, often sounding like the original album when heard from a particularly foreboding shower stall. But unlike many of these kinds of releases, these remixes don’t completely bury the hooks in layers of murk.