Grace, slick

Posted on 01 Sep 2011 at 5:00pm

Grace Jones returns, accessibly, while CSS continues to party on

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STORM WATCH | Grace Jones returns with her first U.S. release in 22 years. ‘Hurricane’ pushes Jones into softer territory but gets the dub treatment in a double-disc package. (Photo by Lawrence Watson)

 

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

 

Let’s clarify something upfront: Hurricane is not a brand new Grace Jones album. Die-hard fans likely already have the disc, which was only available as an import … until now. Her “new” album is about to drop in the U.S. for the first time, so to give it a sort of refresher, Hurricane comes as a double disc.

We haven’t heard from Jones in a while. Her last stateside release was 1989’s Bulletproof Heart, known mostly for the num-one dance hit “Love on Top of Love.” She’s kept busy since then, just not so much on these shores.

While Hurricane may be an unfortunately timed title, the album displays a far more accessible Jones. We almost get to see into her, though not before opening with the declaration of This is my voice/my weapon of choice (“This Is”). We immediately hear her signature voice in a rap that morphs into singing.

But it’s what surrounds her voice that takes it to the next level to open strongly. A heavy bassline track is both hard and lush, filling the ears with hypnotic vibrations. This is the kind of sound you want blaring out of your speakers while at a stoplight to annoy everyone around you. She goes on about the plight of society and the travails of war, but the beat is something to get lost in, and her voice maintains a cool vibe.

But it’s with “William’s Bond” that she takes us elsewhere. A modern take on some ‘60s European mod, you expect psychedelic circles to appear. The song goes from a hip groove into a dance jam with such subtlety, you barely realize you’re moving faster along with the beat. It’s one of the best moments of musical trickery in a long time.

Jones is both burdened and blessed by her image. That iconic warrior is apropos for, say, “Warm Leatherette.” We may not want her to be soft, but when she is, it’s lovely and surprising. She pulls back on the tender “I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears),” a delicate song that floats like a feather. Here is some of that Sade-esque sound that works well for Jones. She’s so strong in appearance that I forget to look past that to see an as-impressive singer.

A similar sound happens but with some injection of energy on “Love You to Life,” a sexy tune where her voice purrs in your ears like a puma’s whispers. She knows her talents and never abuses their power.

It’s the second disc that makes this Hurricane even more attractive. It gives Hurricane the dub treatment with laid-back beats that drive each new version forward. Just don’t expect full song versions: The remixes take out a lot of vocals, but the beats are both fresh and classic. Dub fans will likely get a thrill, while others may be a little put off by the sparse remixes.

Either way, Jones reminds us that she’s not just some pop culture reference, but that she is a true talent that should be remembered for her voice as well as her look.

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BRAZILIAN WHACKS | South American band CSS may have queer members, but they are less about messages and more about rocking and dancing in ‘La Liberacion.’

It’s easy to get excited over CSS’ new album. Like LMFAO, they pride themselves on fun party music; unlike LMFAO, CSS is good. The Brazilian-based queer-centric band doesn’t try to offer overly philosophic messages, they just want to rock out and dance, and La Liberacion proves that in spades.

The album almost plays out in three acts, starting with club-ready tunes. “I Love You” sets the tone with such a hooky upbeat, it’s easy to let it play on. Heavy on synths, the song is followed up by the similarly cute and boppish “Hits Me Like a Rock.”

CSS is easy to infect the ears with adorable confections but they never insult the listener. And they drop in wonderful touches that make the sound their own. As “Rock” bounces along, the guitar drop-in is refreshing.

“City Grrrl” is probably the last title for a song you expect to start of with Spanish guitars. Once they served their purpose the song pushes into Ke$ha territory with heavy synth textures. They open with this troika of dance tunes that’s the kinda stuff you wish DJs would play all night.

They retreat a bit with “Echo of Love” and “You Could Have It All.” Both lean toward a more pop sound, but break away from the energy of the first three songs. While “Echo” displays some tropical flavors, “You Could” does lose some magic with a monotonous beat.

CSS somehow sticks to the same vibe, but goes rock ‘n’ roll in the latter part of the album. The title track is sung in Spanish and lends to the rock side of their electro-rock genre. The album shifts here into harder sounds that still move along well. They aren’t as fun as the first half, but show the band’s versatility, which only adds excitement.

Hinting at sounds of vintage Blondie and The Waitresses, “Partners in Crime” and “Red Alert” employ clever hooks and piano assaults. They rock hardest with “Ruby Eyes” and “Rhythm to the Rebels.” Even the titles sound tough. CSS morphs into a female-tinged assertive version of Green Day but don’t get too much into your face by sticking with pop stylings, although the scratchy guitars and bad-ass drums in “Rebels” push the album to it’s most intense.

They finish with “Fuck Everything” which has appropriate driving force and funny lyrics like I wanna rip my eyes out/and scream fuck everything. Who hasn’t? But CSS makes magic with their third release. At times it plays like a split personality, but remains maturely cohesive but with a youthful energy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

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