Grace Jones


The opening lines are killer: “This is my voice/My weapon of choice”. Clearly two decades away has not eroded Grace Jones’ wonderfully ridiculous talent for portentous claims. Indeed, throughout this album her self-mythologising makes Johnny Borrell’s most outrageous self-aggrandisements look like the pronouncements of a timid suburban vicar. Throughout the ’80s her towering presence was peerless. She stage-managed and exploited her own image with the expertise of a Dali or Warhol, and surrounded herself with the best musicians, collaborators and producers. The genre-hopping songs of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ and ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’, meanwhile, were polished to the point that she could see her own extraordinary face in them.

Now she has attempted to repeat the magic, roping in the talents of Brian Eno, Tricky and Massive Attack and bringing back the reggae rhythms of Sly & Robbie. It’s something of a success. In revisiting the production of her ’80s records she paradoxically produces something that sounds timeless. ‘Well, Well, Well’ and ‘Love You To Life’ in particular revisit the best of Jones’ reggae period. Sadly, there isn’t anything to rival Trevor Horn’s dramatic epic production of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. Instead the atmospherics are urban and downbeat – dystopian rather than utopian. So ‘Corporate Cannibal’ has Massive Attack’s heady paranoiac fug hanging around like marijuana smoke, while a legendary ’97 Tricky tie-in provides the title track.Incidentally, both have some of her best ever scary-canary lyrics (“I’m a man-eating machine… Eat you like an animal… Every man, woman, and child is a target”; “I’ll be a hurricane, ripping up trees”). Clearly she still believes she’s a force of nature. But this time around it’s literal. Closer ‘Devil In My Life’ oozes a similar distracted bass-heavy otherworldliness, seeing Grace clearly enjoy updating the template. And these arrangements allow her to playfully luxuriate in her dominatrix persona.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to suppress the notion that by miring herself in the ’90s, inadvertently she occasionally sounds as dated as a dog-eared Northern Uproar poster. You can’t help but wonder how dementedly brilliant it would be to have her work with someone like Jay-Z or Xenomania. Now, that would be something else.

Anthony Thornton