- Alexander Williams, better known as Ali Love, is the voice behind modern house hits like "Benediction" and "Infinity." Versatile and loaded with personality, his vocals are distinct—his lyrics less so. He has a tendency towards tired clichés and awkward turns of phrase—last year's Hot Natured album showed how it can all go wrong. I wasn't sure what to expect from P.U.M.P., his third solo album and the first since his rise to popularity. On his own, Williams gets willfully weird, which means that even when P.U.M.P. falls flat on its face (which it does), it's rarely less than entertaining.
Williams starts the record off in fine form. "Deep Into The Night" is as solid as this stuff gets, a flamboyant Crosstown Rebels-style jam with a killer chorus and clever lyrics. But then "Dirty Stories" hits wildly off the mark, a lame attempt at punk-funk with call-and-response lyrics that drive it into the ground ("you're gay? / I don't care / work it!"). The record struggles to recover from there. A plodding meander called "JESUSONACID" runs into "P.U.S.S.Y" (where Williams pledges "pussy is all that I dream of") then stumbles into a spoken-word monologue that makes him sound like a Prince impersonator.
P.U.M.P. weaves between extremes so much it might give you whiplash. "P.U.S.S.Y" is followed by "Surrender," which could be the silkiest Ali Love track yet. A cocksure strut in the grand tradition of Hall & Oates, its fuzzy synth chords make up for its slightly creepy lyrics. In terms of quality it's so far ahead of everything else here that it barely sounds like it belongs on the same album. Then again, P.U.M.P. isn't the most coherent record. It winds down with a deeply weird saga that could be described as conspiracy theory techno—"Cosmic Top Secret" is just what you think it is—feeding into astral Orientalism ("Egyptian Space Man") before closing with the confident Kenny Glasgow collaboration "Ride On," a track so light and fluffy it sounds like it's made of clouds.
All of those tracks sit next to "Emperor," which could have been spat from a Crosstown Rebels song generator, and the contemplative "City Clouds," an instrumental with a welcome streak of subtlety. At times impressive and at others cringeworthy, P.U.M.P. shows Ali Love to be more eccentric than he's let on in the past. In a world of complacent tech house, at least he's trying something new.
01. Pumping 4 AI (Intro)
02. Deep Into The Night
03. Dirty Stories
04. Perfect Picture
08. City Clouds
09. Emperor feat. Kali
10. Cosmic Top Secret
11. Egyptian Space Man
12. Ride On feat. Kenny Glasgow