Gruff Rhys is no stranger to fascinating fixations. The Super Furry Animals frontman has written about some weird subjects in his time, and his side project Neon Neon continues to deal in electro-pop concept albums. Rhys's work with American producer Boom Bip has been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize before, which is probably the first time that a concept album about the life of colourful engineer John DeLorean has received such an honour. Their debut release as Neon Neon was called Stainless Style, and it was indeed a stylish album, but Rhys said that he doubted NN would make another album unless they found something equally as interesting to write about. Hence, Praxis Makes Perfect (what's with him and pun-based album titles) is a 10-track concept album about Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, an Italian author and left-wing activist who died in seemingly suspicious circumstances in 1972. Standard.

The album itself is considerably more straightforward than its inspiration would suggest, sticking closely enough to the 80s-influenced electro-pop template of its predecessor. It's a good 12 minutes or so shorter, though, so this time the duo have to do more with less. Fans will already have heard the madcap, Cate Le Bon-featuring lead single 'Mid Century Modern Nightmare', but there's plenty more where that came from, with the mid-tempo 'Dr. Zhivago' (named after the controversial book authored by Feltrinelli) packing a melodic punch and a near-irresistible chorus, while the title track is an electro instrumental that features huge drums and some well-chosen samples (the latter of which are a unifying feature of the record. Its length soon ceases to become an issue as the listener delves into the album and it starts to reveal itself fully, with 'Shopping (I Like To)' making a case for the position of album highlight early on; hell, it pulls off a key change for the last chorus and manages not to make it sound schmaltzy.

There are moments where 'Praxis Makes Perfect' does sound a little cheesy, but it's in a knowing way, a sort of 'this is what we were aiming for all along!' archness that is best exemplified on closer 'Ciao Feltrinelli', a song which gives the record a rousing send-off, but does it in an overblown kind of way which goes against the feel of the rest of the album. This works to its advantage, however - Neon Neon don't normally give in to the indulgence usually found on concept albums, so it's all more surprising when they do. Rhys is able to write almost any kind of song he likes at this stage, but when stripped back to their bare bones, the 10 songs which make up the latest Neon Neon venture identify as great pop songs. As long as he can find eccentric historical figures to write about, Neon Neon will probably be around for a while yet, and that's a very intriguing prospect.