Neon Neon - Praxis Makes Perfect
Gruff Rhys concept album based on rogue leftist Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli
Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys has long loved turning strange biography into pop music that’s stranger still. With the Furries, he referenced Howard Marks, Che Guevara and Einstein’s parents, and on the 2008 Mercury-nominated Stainless Style (recorded as Neon Neon, alongside Boom Bip, aka American hip-hop producer Bryan Hollon), he gave us a concept album about maverick motoring miscreant John DeLorean.
The eccentric Welsh genius’ latest fascination, again under the Neon Neon umbrella, is Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the son of a wealthy Italian family turned rogue leftist publisher and militant. His socialist activism, book smuggling, basketball matches with communist leaders and suspicious death in 1972 become, like DeLorean’s antics, the subject of gleaming 80s-tastic power-pop in the hands of the ever-inventive Rhys and Hollon.
‘Dr. Zhivago’ turns the story of Feltrinelli sneaking pages from the banned masterpiece out of the USSR into a work of high-sheen fantasy-pop befitting Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night. On the chipper ‘Hoops with Fidel’, we find him ‘bouncing ideas of joy’ on court with Cuba’s revolutionary head hombre. ‘Shopping (I Like To)’ makes emotionless robo-disco from the irony of there now being a huge chain of entertainment stores across Italy named in Feltrinelli’s honour, and features the vogue-ish voice of Sabrina Salerno – buxom 80s pin-up of ‘Boys’ fame. The propulsive electro-pop of ‘Mid Century Modern Nightmare’ proves the closest thing Praxis Makes Perfect has to equal Stainless Style’s irresistible lead single ‘I Told Her on Alderaan’.
Our Italian anti-hero finally checks out with ‘Ciao Feltrinelli’, as Rhys salutes a man whose 'ideas need no vessel' while knowingly cheesy bass and sax play, and actress Asia Argento reads from the biography that inspired this album. There ends a ridiculously enjoyable insight into the life of one intriguing character through the vision of another.