Somehow and somewhere something went wrong with pop music. Especially with the sort of synthetic one. When we think of electro pop today we see cheesy charts pop, pumping beats, stylish but soulless video clips and nothing substantial. The extravaganza became a calculatio – well, it wasn’t supposed to be this way when it all started back in the early 1980s. Synthiepop was the logical consequence of punk if you are willing to believe this. And why not mixing catchy melodies with intelligent concepts? Thank god, SUPER FURY ANIMALS frontmann Gruff Rhys and Bryan Hollon aka producer BOOM BIP are here to save what’s left to save – with the sophomore album of their side-project NEON NEON.
Back in 2008 the – on the first sight – unequal couple released Stainless Style, a fancy retro-pop recorded, dedicated John DeLoran, founder of the legendary DeLorean Motor Company. Yes, we’re talking about the Back To The Future car. Sound and songs were influenced by the life of the playboy, creating a very entertaining and intelligent pop record. Five years later, Praxis Makes Perfect – out April 29 via Lex Records – revisits the concept with a different focus. The sophomore album is dedicated to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a left-wing political activist and publisher from Italy who died mysteriously in 1972. What an initial point for a pop record! The good thing is – just like on Stainless Style – you don’t need to be firm with Feltrinelli’s biography or the communistic ideology in general to enjoy this record.
NEON NEON‘s second record is as joyful wave pop as the debut album was. While the e-funky hip hop moments of Stainless Style were abandoned, the two musician make room for experiments. But it is pop in the end although it deals with communism, the revolutionary power of the working class and Dr. Zhivago, one of the famous literature work from Feltrinelli. After the instrumental intro warms up the synthesizers, The Jaguar marks the return of NEON NEON as you might remember them. Rhys’ tender vocal just fits perfectly on the synthetic beats. Hammer & Sickle is one of the more obvious hits on the record with its pumping 80s bass sequencer, while the cheesy-ness of the groovy Shopping (I Like To) might have happened on purpose. Praxis Makes Perfect feels like a natural but also intelligent playground of Rhys and BOOM BIP, creating their very own atmosphere – from funky disco pop to easy floating spherical moments like The Leopard.
“What remains, remains … without nostalgia” is one of the key sentences in Ciao Felrinelli, the obvious closing track of the record. Well, but a bit of nostalgia isn’t the worst thing was we experience in this beautiful spheric lullaby at the end. A final salute to a man most of the listeners of this record won’t know and maybe never will. But it’s okay, we already got the point of NEON NEON by now. The PET SHOP BOYS – experts on the territory of intelligent pop – once called such a strategy ‘depth through surface’. Gruff Rhys and BOOM BIP do nothing else than follow these footsteps with ten quite entertaining tunes. It might not be as hit-loaded as the debut, but it’s a more than solid follow-up. And the only thing we can hope for is that these two won’t need another five years before returning again. In the end, we always need brave soldiers to save pop music.