LONELY ROBOT is the solo project of English singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer John Mitchell, best known as member of ARENA, IT BITES, KINO, and FROST*. “Feelings Are Good” is the fourth album, following the conclusion of the “The Astronaut Trilogy” by the “Under Stars” album in 2019. Once again published by InsideOut Music on 17 July 2020, this brand new collection of 11+2 songs is a completely fresh start and according to Mitchell himself, a departure from the first three albums as he wanted to explore more personal themes this time. Although it certainly brings new elements to the table, it is also steady proof of why his name is among the most important in the British neo-prog scene, despite being criminally unknown to the wider mainstream rock music audiences.
I have to admit, I discovered the existence of LONELY ROBOT earlier this year when I was looking for some newer additions to my alternative/progressive rock collection. My main goal was to find something to listen to with a similar sound to Steven Wilson (and PORCUPINE TREE of course), TEARS FOR FEARS, KING CRIMSON, and the softer side of Devin Townsend. Well, if you ever find yourself walking in my shoes, look no further, as you’ve found another fantastic artist.
Now it seems like John Mitchell is quite a busy man, as he has not only a rich history as a producer, but has also built a notable reputation with all those aforementioned bands he has been involved with over the years and left his mark on the progressive rock scene even before the start of this project. The first album, “Please Come Home,” was released five years ago and last year’s conclusion of the trilogy could have been the perfect time for a well-deserved break. Luckily for us, Mr. Mitchell is not the kind of musician to sit back and do nothing, so only a year after the last, this record is already here for us to enjoy. Even better, it doesn’t sound like a rushed effort that he had to release just for the sake of it.
Vocoder, samples, electronic sounds, magnificent guitars, and John Mitchell‘s well-recognizable vocals are back again and, while musically this is undeniably a sibling to the previous albums, the overall sound feels less like a soundtrack to space travel and more like an emotional journey.
The album kicks of with the self-titled intro, “Feelings Are Good,” that apart from the barely noticeable electronics in the background, features only vocoder and vocals. “Into the Lo-Fi” turns up the tempo, still sticking with vocoder, but adding acoustic guitars, keyboards, beautiful vocal melodies, and a chorus that is hard to forget. “Spiders” continues in the same vein, but we’re drifting closer to rock with distorted guitars, followed by a slowed ballad with piano in “Crystalline,” which takes us out of time and space with marvellous guitars in the end. “Life is a Sine Wave” and “Army of One” are the longest songs here with a running time of over 6 minutes, but while the first one is a rather ethereal tune, the latter spices up the slower verses with an anthemic chorus, “Let’s go to war!” The album’s conclusion comes in the form of “Grief is the Price of Love,” serving both as an outro while nicely mirroring the first song, giving the album a great frame.
It is also worth mentioning that this is almost a real solo record in the word’s truest sense, as Mitchell has written all the songs and lyrics; recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered the album; sang all the vocals; and played all the instruments, with the only exception of working with drummer Craig Blundell. It is an utterly impressive achievement by any person in any genre that always leaves me amazed. I love real solo records; art is the closest thing to the human soul there is to see and these types of records show a whole new level of it.
The lyrics and even the artwork might have made a different impression from what the writer himself had originally had in mind. LONELY ROBOT is much more like an “art rock” project from this point of view, as John Mitchell used metaphors and allegories to tell different stories and to describe situations – or maybe not, but that’s what my impression was nonetheless. To me it felt like he used words like a painter uses a brush – every single song paints a different picture in my head and all the while makes me feel like I see something else, just like every individual listener should, as we obviously don’t know the backstories of the personal themes he describes. To me, it is one of the most significant cornerstones of what makes this genre so enjoyable and I was glad to hear how plain and precise his execution is on this record and with the project overall. Years and experience show, one could say.
If you ever find yourself in a contemplative mood, wishing to just beam yourself up into outer space to start a new life, this album and band are certainly recommended. There’s a lot for me yet to be explored when it comes to LONELY ROBOT, but I’m certain “Feelings Are Good” is an album capable of satisfying not only the newcomers like me, but longtime fans as well.
Written by Árpi Fejes
- Feelings Are Good
- Into The Lo-Fi
- Life Is A Sine Wave
- Armour For My Heart
- The Silent Life
- Keeping People As Pets
- Army Of One
- Grief Is The Price Of Love
- The Silent Life (Orchestral Version)
- Crystalline (Orchestral Version)
John Mitchell – Vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards
Craig Blundell – Drums