Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect (Lex Records)

Five years after their underrated debut Stainless Style, Gruff Rhys and producer Boom Bip’s collaboration as Neon Neon are back with their sophomore album, Praxis Makes Perfect. Praxis is a musical biography of Italian publisher and leftist activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1972. Feltrinelli is a far more obscure historical character than Stainless Style’s subject, John DeLorean, and Praxis is a far more obscure album. In fact, as a long-time fan of Gruff Rhys it pains me to say this, but it sounds like he’s on creative autopilot here. On Stainless Style Rhys seemed in control of the big hooks and ’80s-style songwriting, while Boom Bip crafted top-notch beats, but here they sound tired and halfhearted. Perhaps there’s a few decent numbers in the album’s first half  (“The Jaguar” and “Hammer and Sickle”), but tracks six through ten are inconsequential at best (“The Leopard”) and cloying rehashes of everything putrid about ’80s pop music at worst. In fact, “Shopping (I Like To)” is probably the worst song Gruff Rhys has ever been part of. So there’s that. Praxis Makes Perfect runs only thirty-one minutes, yet wears out its welcome long before it ends. Damn.