Neon Neon (Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip) return to Glasgow tomorrow to promote their new album, Praxis Makes Perfect – a conceptual power-pop tour de force inspired by the life of maverick Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.
Born into one of Italy’s wealthiest families, Feltrinelli was a controversial left-wing activist with connections to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
He published some of the greatest literary works of the 20th century including The Leopard, which became the biggest- selling novel in Italian history, and Doctor Zhivago, a banned masterpiece brought to the world’s attention by Feltrinelli who risked his life smuggling the manuscript out of the USSR.
Feltrinelli died in suspicious circumstances in 1972 but lives on through his literary legacy and – perhaps paradoxically considering his politics – a chain of ‘la Feltrinelli’ shops still trading throughout Italy.
Praxis Makes Perfect is a musical biopic of Feltrinelli’s colourful life viewed through the lens of Gruff Rhys’ highly original songwriting and Boom Bip’s shimmering, synth-heavy production.
The album spans Feltrinelli’s fast-paced lifestyle (‘The Jaguar’), political beliefs (‘Dr Zhivago’, ‘Hammer & Sickle’), infamous photographs of him playing basketball with Castro (‘Hoops with Fidel’) and the breadth of viewpoints and ideas he helped to give voice to (‘Listen To The Rainbow’).
Recorded in Wales, California and Italy, Praxis Makes Perfect follows Neon Neon’s 2008, Mercury-shortlisted debut, Stainless Style; a concept album based on the life of roguish motoring mogul John DeLorean.
Guests on the sequel include two previous Neon Neon co-conspirators in Josh Klinghoffer of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Cardiff’s Cate Le Bon, plus new recruits in Italian pop sensation Sabrina Salerno and actress Asia Argento.
Salerno – best known for her multi-million selling 80s anthem ‘Boys (Summertime Love)’ – duets with Rhys on ‘Shopping (I Like To)’, a celebration of Feltrinelli’s commercial savvy and retail empire.
Argento’s various vocal contributions include a reading from the book that provided the initial inspiration for Praxis Makes Perfect – Carlo Feltrinelli’s Senior Service biography of his father –– on poignant curtain closer ‘Ciao Feltrinelli’.
Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip have also teamed up with playwright Tim Price, director Wils Wilson and the National Theatre Wales for the following Neon Neon live shows which blur the boundaries between pop gig and theatre performance.
Tomorrow sees them take to the stage at Oran Mor with support from H Hawkline.