Best known for his 2007 collaboration with The Chemical Brothers on their "Do It Again" single, British singer Ali Love is no newcomer—even though it might feel like it. First a member of the short-lived retro-electro outfit Ignition in the early '00s, Love found low-key stardom with his "Secret Sunday Lover" track. But for unfathomable major label-related reasons, the release of his first proper solo album three years ago never passed the promotional CD-R stage. Love has soldiered on, however, and as London developed an underground taste for equine disco these past few years, so did he: Love Harder, an entirely new collection of songs produced with the help of Martin Dubka, is so indebted to all things Italo… for better and worse. (But mostly for the better.)
From his pseudonym to his 2010 album's title "Love Harder" and lyrical content, it is clear Love is puzzled by that very emotion called love. His missus treats him like shit and/or simply bewilders him, and he wants you to know it. This is laid out on preliminary singles such as the thumping title track, the tuneful "Diminishing Returns" and the recent, more lighthearted "Smoke & Mirrors," whose dramatic, frosted synths fit Love's slightly campy delivery and calculated sentiment like a shiny satin glove.
Co-written by Trash alumni Rory Phillips, "Moscow Girl" is even more shameless in its 1982 pillage. It wouldn't sound out of place next to a Miko Mission rarity or a Fred Ventura studio outtake. "Love in Darkness" is where the album reaches its true acme, though, as the track builds itself around an untiring drum, an arousing chorus and circling acidic bleeps. Then it all ends with "The Night," a placid electronic ballad on which Samantha Lin reconciles Love with the idea that letting your guard down for a night isn't such a devastating prospect after all.
There is something about Ali Love's voice that seems just out of reach, and that goes whether he's belting out "Forward Motion" for Hot Creations or murmuring his way through this curvy, sinuous little mid-'80s throwback. It makes sense, given how much Love sings about his namesake gone poignantly wrong. His arrival is cunningly timed: dance music's big look back at mid-'80s R&B calls for singers that embody the wimpy bravado so prevalent in the Thriller era. One more like the recent and ridiculously catch "Different Morals" with Luca C. & Brigante and Love's 2012 is going to resemble Nate Dogg's 1994, or maybe Craig David's 1999. Watch this space.