Artist: Lonely Robot
Album Title: Please Come Home
Label: InsideOut Music
Year Of Release: 2015
Occasionally, an album will come out of nowhere and completely blow you away. That is exactly the case with Lonely Robot and their debut album, ‘Please Come Home’. It really is a stunning record.
Of course, I’m aware of the talents of John Mitchell, the mastermind behind Lonely Robot – his involvement with the likes of It Bites, Arena and Frost* and Kino means that he is an important musician within my musical world to put it mildly. However, I admit to being completely blindsided by this latest project. I hang my head in shame but hope to repair my wounded pride with this review and my incessant plugging of it on social media.
To provide some context and background, Lonely Robot was conceived as an idea several years ago but it has taken until now, thanks to a little prodding from various quarters, for Mitchell to bring it to fruition. The title of the project was taken from a lyric by Eliot Sumner, daughter of Sting. And the music has been inspired as much by his ubiquitous love of prog as it has been by movie soundtrack music as Mitchell is a self-confessed geek for movies and classic old school sci-fi in particular. As such, the influences, inspiration and musical direction for this record are very clear. That said, whilst the lyrical concept has an overtly science fiction sheen, it has an equally human element as well, looking at the way in which we can easily slip into a rut and live out lives almost robotically. It’s a sobering thought.
Mitchell has both a distinctive voice and guitar-playing style and so it is almost impossible not to be reminded of the aforementioned It Bites et al. However, what makes Lonely Robot different is its density and the overtly atmospheric nature of the music. From the depth and richness of the compositions right through to the lyrical imagery and the moniker of the project itself, ‘Please Come Home’ has the ability to both uplift the listener and reduce you to tears or at least cover you in goosebumps. The fact that this is no way unintentional only serves to further underline the undeniable strength of the music on this record.
The album opens up with the slightly creepy, disturbing-sounding ‘Airlock’, an intense instrumental track that sets the scene and builds the tension superbly. It has a definite sci-fi soundtrack feel to it thanks to some of the sampled effects that enter the fray towards the end but the familiar tones of Mitchell’s lead guitar work are apparent from early on, providing a counterpoint to the layers of synths that drench the composition. Whilst Mitchell handles the bulk of the keyboards for the album, Frost*’s Jem Godfrey was drafted in for this impressive opener and for the title track, ‘Lonely Robot’, working wonders with both.
Speaking of the personnel involved on this record, the bulk of the material is naturally handled by Mitchell (guitars, bass, keys and vocals) with Craig Blundell (drums) and Nick Beggs (additional bass) ably assisting the project. It’s then that things get very interesting and rather complicated as the list of guests is comprehensive to say the least. A little eyebrow-raising might also be a fitting adjective.
Aside from the afore-mentioned Godfrey, ‘Please Come Home’ boasts Marillion’s Steve Hogarth on backing vocals and on piano on a couple of tracks, Touchstone vocalist Kim Seviour on one track, ‘Oubliette’ and folk singer Heather Findlay on ‘Why Do We Stay’ to duet with Mitchell. But it doesn’t stop there as renowned actor Lee Ingleby provides the narration that features throughout the album, Peter Cox of 80s pop group Go West fame provides vocals for ‘Boy In The Radio’ whilst the instantly recognisable name of Nik Kershaw also contributes a guitar solo for one song, ‘Humans Being’.
What is, however, as equally impressive as the ‘cast list’ is the fact that the album has a really superb flow throughout. It could have turned into a procession of one disjointed track after another, simply showcasing each of the names that are involved. However, to Mitchell’s credit, the guests fit in with his vision first and foremost and feature where they are able to assist with the album, rather than the other way around. Nothing feels out of place or clunky; every piece of music fits into the overall concept and is there for a reason. I love albums like this, where you can immerse yourself in them and be carried away into another time and place, even if it only for an hour.
I have mentioned the atmosphere of ‘Please Come Home’ already but it is such an important element of the record that it cannot be understated. There is such a depth and poignancy within the music that you really begin to feel the music as well as simply hear it. Much of this has to do with the guitar playing. I’ve always loved the way Mitchell handles the instrument but with Lonely Robot, he makes my hairs stand on end. So precice, clean, crisp and delicate are his lead lines and solos, they cannot help but move me in quite a profound way. It is addictive and I find myself hitting repeat an awful lot.
But there’s more to the album than atmosphere. There’s no denying that this is a prog rock album at its heart and so there is plenty going on within the compositions without things descending into an overly technical workout. One minute you’re confronted with a big powerful riff or a synth-led wall of sound. The next, everything drops away and a subtle synth melody, soft vocal or guitar line will be your only companion. It’s all part of Mitchell’s master plan and it’s wonderful.
To pick out single tracks is a relatively futile and redundant exercise because they all offer beauty and magnificence in their own right. That said, I utterly adore the melodies that feature within ‘Man vs God’, the vocal interplay within ‘Why Do We Stay’ is captivating and the title track is a metaphor for the entire record in that it is enormously majestic, scintillating, compelling and utterly addictive.
To sum things up, all I can say is that for all his other considerable work, it is Lonely Robot which is arguably John Mitchell’s tour-de-force to date. I love just about everything about it. ‘Please Come Home’ is without doubt the sound of Mitchell at his creative best. I said it before and I will say it again: This really is a stunning record.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld