Monday, September 30, 2013

What's So Great About Praxis Makes Perfect?

For several weeks now, I've been listening to Welsh Music Prize-nominated albums and saying that they're not as good as Praxis Makes Perfect by Neon Neon. What I've yet to do is explain why I actually like Praxis... so much.

That's what I'm going to do today, and I'm hopefully going to focus on the music instead of on the mind-blowing National Theatre Wales performance that took place back in May. When I judge rather good albums like February and Summer Special to be inferior to Praxis Makes Perfect, I do worry that the live show is colouring my opinion of the album, giving it an edge that simply can't be beaten. However, I've had a good, long think about this, and I've decided that Neon Neon's second album would still be a source of awesomeness even without the help of NTW.

Image taken from National Theatre Wales

Here are a few of my favourite things about the album:

It's a concept album
As I've mentioned previously, I love a good concept album. Even if the tunes were rubbish, I'd still give Praxis Makes Perfect a bit of credit for daring to tell us a story about the life and times of Italian publisher and activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. As is my wont, I've searched for arcs and unifying concepts in all the other WMP albums I've heard so far, but PMP seems to be the only clear-cut one.

It sets a good scene
The title track is an edgy instrumental that's splattered with urgent-sounding beeps and snippets of information about Feltrinelli himself. I wouldn't say it eases you in - the music actually sounds rather uneasy - but it's a great introduction nonetheless.

It brings the tunes thick and fast
Didn't enjoy that opening track? Felt that it was a bit unnecessary? Not to worry, because your listening efforts will be instantly rewarded by track two, The Jaguar:

I *love* this track. It might well be my favourite song of 2013. Those synths, the steady, unflinching beat, and that soaring, electrifying chorus - it's all fabulous. And the good news is that it isn't the only top-notch track on the album: in the next fifteen minutes, we get Dr. Zhivago (another one with a great big chorus), Hammer & Sickle (as throbbing and as infectious as any, uh, wound), Shopping (hypnotic in its silliness), Mid Century Modern Nightmare (short but effective), and The Leopard (that rare slow, reflective track that isn't boring). Gems, one and all.

Even its lowlights are pretty good
There are two tracks on this CD that don't excite me as much as the others: Hoops with Fidel and Listen to the Rainbow. And yet, even these songs are decent - LttR is bouncy and ends with a nice sax-fuelled freakout, while Hoops with Fidel - as pointed out in one review that I read - is as close as the album comes to a Super Furry Animals song:

It ends well, and doesn't outstay its welcome
I like short albums almost as much as I like concept albums, and Praxis Makes Perfect pulls off that trickiest of tricks: feeling like an epic without going on for too long. Ciao Feltrinelli is a great, achey-sounding closer, the most final of all finales, and while you feel like you've come to the end of a long, long journey, you're not afraid to start it all over again. At just over thirty minutes long, it's a very digestible LP indeed.

So that's why I love Praxis Makes Perfect. Four Welsh albums have so far failed to displace it as my favourite - there are seven more to come in October. How will they do?

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree with this, I'm obsessed with this album.

    The live show completely blew my mind, here's an interview I did with Gruff Rhys