Praxis Makes Perfect
May 07, 2013 Web Exclusive
Concept albums, by and large, have a bad reputation: self-indulgent, bloated, and lost in their own sense of importance. Pink Floyd, for example, had a penchant for them and with it earned, fairly or otherwise, the contempt of the 1970s hipster crowd. The tag of onanistic prog rockers has remained with them through to this day; therefore it must be seen as something of a risk for any contemporary outfit to tread a similar path.
The duo that is Neon Neon—renowned Welsh rocker Gruff Rhys, best known for his work with Super Furry Animals, and hip-hop producer/composer Boom Bip (aka Bryan Hollon)—at first seems to be an unlikely group to head down that path. Nonetheless, following the Mercury Prize-nominated Stainless Style, a record about automotive executive and engineer John DeLorean (best known for his DeLorean DMC-12 sports car and thus his contribution to Back to the Future), new album Praxis Makes Perfect confirms the pun-happy pairing as leaders in the admittedly niche genre of concept albums about historical figures with whom listeners may at first not be familiar.
Ostensibly Praxis Makes Perfect is all about 20th Century Italian publisher and left-wing political activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. As we would dare to suggest is the case with many of our readers, Under the Radar isn't especially familiar with Feltrinelli's work. In any case, Rhys' vocals here are typically obfuscated, his smoke-afflicted mumble tumbling about in a spin cycle of reverb.
The appeal of the album lies in its musicianship and perfect production. Synths and drum machines create a panic-laden sci-fi landscape; meanwhile, acoustic guitars slip deftly in and out of the songs. The result is beautiful AM pop moments that sound as though they're being played in 1978 at a distant space age disco. The title gives away that "Dr. Zhivago" is about Feltrinelli's most famous publication, but this sticks in the mind as the highlight of a perfect dance pop record.
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 6/10