Prog Rockers Lonely Robot are the brain child of producer, guitarist and singer/songwriter John Mitchell (Kino, Frost, Arena, It Bites), and are set to release their fourth studio album ‘Feelings Are Good’ on Friday 17th July through Sony/InsideOut Music. The album will be available as a Limited Edition CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP+CD and as a Digital Album in both 16 & 24 bit versions (all including 2 bonus tracks). The cover artwork is by Paul Tippett/Vitamin P (Black Star Riders, Frost) which features a stark and disturbing image of a head with taped eyes and mouth! John says of the cover: "The artwork is meant to be a little disturbing. The closed eyes and taped over mouth are supposed to represent how people are very guarded with their emotions and what better way of emoting them than through the windows to the soul and the smile?" All songs were written, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Mitchell at Outhouse Studios, Reading. John also handles all vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards with the assistance of Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Frost) on drums. ‘Feelings Are Good’ is a bit of a departure from the first three Lonely Robot albums or ‘The Astronaut Trilogy’ as it has become known. John explains "On ‘Feelings Are Good’, I wanted to explore more personal themes and the songs are very much about individual experiences and narratives that I believe had been the cornerstones, good and bad, to my life. The long tall and short of it is that we’re back on planet Earth, and I have a personal lyrical axe to grind!”
Mitchell is a multifaceted musician who has his fingers in many musical pies! He seems to be in about three of four bands all at the same time, whilst also producing and engineering other artistes at his own studio Outhouse in Reading. If that wasn't enough he is also co-owner of the White Star Record label along with Chris Hillman (owner and founder of Magick Eye Records). Mitchell came to prominence in the Prog Rock music field around 1997 when he joined Prog Rockers Arena. Arena were founded in 1995 by Clive Nolan, keyboardist of Pendragon and Shadowland, and Mick Pointer, the original drummer of Marillion. Guitar virtuoso Mitchell replaced Keith More in 1997 and subsequently went on to record the 'The Visitor' album with them in 1998. As well as being in several other bands at the same time, Mitchell continues to work with Arena and has appeared on a further seven studio albums to date.
As the 90's drew to a close and the new millennium entered, Mitchell started to spread his musical wings and expand his CV further, appearing on two albums with The Urbane, 'Neon' (1999) and 'Glitter' (2003). The Urbane were a four-piece band from Reading, formed in 1994 and comprising of Mitchell on lead vocals and guitar, Martin Raggett on bass guitar and Paddy Darlington on keyboards. They split up in 2006. In 2004 Mitchell formed Kino with Pete Trewavas on bass (Marillion), John Beck on synthesizers (It Bites) and Chris Maitland on drums (Porcupine Tree). Their debut album 'Picture' was released in 2005, however, by 2006 the band went into hiatus due to Mitchell joining John Beck and Bob Dalton in the new It Bites lineup. Kino's second album 'Radio Voltaire' didn't appear until 2018.
Also in 2004, Mitchell formed Frost with songwriter, producer and musician Jem Godfrey. The band featured John Jowitt on bass (Arena, IQ and Jadis), Andy Edwards on drums (Robert Plant and IQ) and John Boyes on guitar (Freefall). Their well received debut album 'Milliontown' was released in 2006, with a further two, 'Experiments in Mass Appeal' in 2008 and 'Falling Satellites' in 2016. The band have gone through several lineup changes over the years with Godfrey and Mitchell being the only constant members. Their latest 'Others' EP was released in June 2020 with a new album due out in September 2020.
In 2006 Mitchell joined British Prog Pop band It Bites as their vocalist/guitarist replacing original singer and guitarist Francis Dunnery. Along with Bob Dalton on drums, John Beck on keyboards and Dick Nolan on bass guitar (Lee Pomeroy replaced Nolan on bass in 2008) they released two critically acclaimed studio albums 'The Tall Ships' (2008) and 'Map Of The Past' (2012), not to mention three brilliant live albums 'When The Lights Go Down' (2007), 'This Is Japan' (2010) and 'It Happened One Night' (2011). Sadly It Bites decided to call it a day in 2019. Despite being busier than the average musician could handle, Mitchell guested with many other artistes throughout the noughties including John Wetton, Touchstone and Heather Findlay to name a few! He even joined Alternative Rock band “A” in 2008, playing bass in place of original bass player Daniel P. Carter to support The Wildhearts on their UK tour, as well as a ten-date headline tour in 2009. Then in 2012, Mitchell toured with Martin Barre in his band "New Day", singing lead vocals on Jethro Tull songs.
In 2015 Mitchell released 'Please Come Home', the debut album from his new musical project Lonely Robot. It featured a number of guest artists including Peter Cox, Steve Hogarth, Jem Godfrey, Nik Kershaw, and British actor Lee Ingleby. The second album 'The Big Dream' was released in 2017, with the third 'Under Stars' in 2019, the concluding album of what Mitchell calls ‘The Astronaut Trilogy’. Onto 2020 and the upcoming release of the new Lonely Robot album 'Feelings Are Good'. This album sees Mitchell with his feet firmly back on Planet Earth and digging down deep into his personal psyche and getting in touch with much deeper emotional issues and feelings that have effected his life, the good and the bad! Many of Mitchell's musical influences including Genesis, Yes, Marillion, Asia, Pink Floyd, It Bites through to the 80's Synth Pop sounds of the likes of Nik Kershaw and Howard Jones can all be heard throughout his work, and this album is no exception!
The short title track opens up the album with a lone synthesised vocal, sounding very much like a vocoder. “This distant anger and quietest rage, don't be long now, just turn the page." 'Into The Lo-Fi' is a lively track with an insistent and relentless energetic drum pattern that never seems to let up! A radiant perma glow interjects through the rumbling denseness jostling for prominence. The vocoder style vocal gets another outing on this one, albeit only fleeting! A song about our fast paced modern life with it's constant chaos and eternal discord! Things were easier in the past! “Give me the lo-fi, give me the past, if this is my life then it's killing me fast, rewind, rewind, rewind...”
'Spiders' is an epic track with subtle elements of the King Crimson formula percolating throughout, definitely a stand out track and a Prog Rock masterpiece construction! Over driven dissonant angular electric guitar riffs bulldoze their way between the unrelenting grooves, with insistent stabbing piano punctuating key notes in the score. Intense jarring off-beat drum sets the heavy laden groove, with heavy gritty guitar phrases relentlessly imposing through the audio melange adding further exciting dynamic layers and intoxicating textures. Lush synth runs brighten the darker edges and sweeten the down beat mood. Impassioned vocals add to the superlative atmospheric melody. “Quietly spinning catastrophe, vulnerable figures in webs. Spiders spinning innocence, I can't get you out of my head, spiders you took everything, and left me defenceless."
'Crystalline' opens with a beautiful piano motif and mellifluous heart wrenching vocals full of melancholy emotion salubriously washing over the top. “All of this time I thought I was the child on the inside, you took me apart and throw all of my pieces away, it's a history grave a promise you made, and I should have just heeded the signs.” The intensity builds and climbs reaching an emotionally wrought peak with a deft nimble-fingered labyrinthian guitar solo, before the tension subsides returning to the opening piano motif and bringing the track to it's final conclusion. Lush ornamental waves of pure delight!
'Life Is A Sine Wave' opens with chugging palm muted rhythm guitar before a driving mid-tempo four on the floor drum pattern sets the rhythmic intention. Bright symphonic synth hooks abound over breathy silky smooth vocals that dip and soar like an emotional roller coaster. “Feign indifference you sometimes crack, you show a glimpse when facing back, life is a sine wave to get atop, fighting with shadows with all you got.” A dreamy, spacey, Neo-Prog guitar solo dips into Pink Floyd territory! Intense, gripping, well crafted, technically sublime, heavy on the sustain, and executed with perfect precision, makes this track one to return to time and again!
'Armour For My Heart' is heavy on the bass drum and busy on the hi-hat. A short repeating keyboard hook holds everything together before a musical amalgamation ascends into the stratosphere in a lush bright candescent glow, sprinklings of luminous spacey echoes awash over iridescent dazzling textures and lustrous layers. A song about having one's heart broken too many times and the need to build defences to prevent further heartbreak! “You sharpen your sword, and your poison remark, by making defences I'm building armour for my heart”.
'Suburbia' is another rhythmically insistent track with a massive wall of sound that dips and rises in intensity and mood, varying tempo changes help to break the flow and shake up the senses. Emotionally flowing in a spiral of oscillating movements and multidimensional connections that come at you from various juxtaposed angles. “Suburbia, your modern life perfect world, big advances hide your eyes, you ride the times and demonise the soul.”
'The Silent Life' is a deeply sublime arresting atmospheric ballad. A beguiling sonic bed of delicately shimmering cellos peppered with decorative piano arpeggios, support raw, emotionally exposed and vulnerable euphonious vocals as they delicately glide over the top with a strong sense of purpose and respectful grace. “For in the endless street parade, there's beauty in her silent ways, she's living life to observe, never speaks a single word, and in tooth by tooth she builds a smile, and lives the silent life." A tastefully restrained and technically proficient melodic guitar solo, reminiscent of David Gilmour or Steve Rothery, tingles the senses and is quit simply stunning!
'Keeping People As Pets' is another busy and dramatic track with multiple cinematic layers. It starts out as if it is going to be an 90's dance track with programmed synthesiser phrases prominent, but thankfully a more straight forward Rock beat with discernible electric guitar squeals are established pretty quick! The vocals are slightly more gritty and raspy than heard on previous tracks and periodically delivered synthesised. “At times we look down on God, so hard to keep up charade, what first was told, in perfect gold, it slowly becomes scarred.”
'Army Of One' opens with the sound of marching feet before huge waves of synth chords and a tsunami of electric guitars flood the air space and drown the silence. Once the tidal wave of sound subsides a lone piano and vocal are left bare for a few seconds before the intense heavy Grungy chorus hook “lets go to war!” comes crashing in like a steam hammer! “Are you listening, can you hear me, am I even making sense, I am battered, bruised and broken, it is only self defence, So, let's go to war...” Stabbing synth chords fight with intense, angry, despondent and disillusioned vocals creating a cornucopia of astounding sounds! The raucous energetic guitar solo sounds quite disturbed and restless, which fits the overall mood of uneasiness and foreboding.
'Grief Is The Price Of Love' is a short, emotionally intense ballad with delicately picked acoustic guitar accompaniment over heart-wrenching ethereal vocals. “When you were a child, with those innocent eyes, they sheltered you from the above, grief is the price of love, and how the words echo with age, however you turn, there is one fault you must learn, there's no rainbow without some rain.”. The album also features two bonus tracks, orchestral versions of 'The Silent Life' and 'Crystalline'.
Overall this is a majestically grand, musically well-crafted, technically sublime and proficiently produced album, full of intense emotions and deep sentiments expressed through innovative compositions. Mitchell bares his soul on these songs which makes this album compelling listening.
Steven C. Gilbert