Album Review: Lonely Robot – “Please Come Home”
Please Come Home is the debut album from Lonely Robot, but the man behind the scenes is veteran prog musician John Mitchell. As a member of Arena and the man who stepped into It Bites’ Francis Dunnery shaped hole, Mitchell is considered one of the best in the prog business.
So Lonely Robot is essentially a solo project, albeit one with lots of lovely guests popping in for a noodle on some tracks, and it’s as Mitchell himself says, a chance to have ‘a clean slate’ without the weight of musical expectation that comes with his other musical endeavours. As such Please Come Home, while a suitably prog-centric piece of work, very much has it’s own identity.
The album opens with the dynamic and layered soundscape of Airlock, an instrumental that by the end has almost transmogrified into an industrial piece. God Vs Man begins with a bubbling electronic figure that gives way to a huge riff, which in turn surrenders to the atmospheric synths of the verse, and Mitchell’s grasp of dynamics really shine as the verse builds slowly to a chorus that seems to explode out of the speakers. The distinctive pipes of Go West’s Peter Cox, the first of two eighties legends that grace the album, make an appearance on The Boy On The Radio, a hook-peppered monster of a prog-pop song that is fearsomely catchy and demonstrates to great effect Mitchell’s ear for melody.
The folk infused ballad Why Do We Stay sees Mitchell duet with Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn), and as the most restrained song on the album up to this point, only indulging itself with a searing guitar solo towards the end, it’s delicate melody and haunting harmonies are all the more effective.
Lonely Robot powers along on a springy bassline throughout the verse and sees Mitchell return to the world of huge pop choruses, which sounds at times like underrated prog-popsters Ooberman, and Mitchell’s pop sensibilities are further explored on album highlight Oubliette. Featuring another guest in the form of the Touchstone’s Kim Seviour, the track’s big riffs combine with Seviour’s angelic vocals making the song sound like a combination of Take That and Devin Townsend. Things then get much proggier on Construct/Obstruct, which although containing a fabulously catchy verse, also has a suitably odd meter running through the riffs and chorus.
Are We Copies? is another prog heavy track, and while a fantastic song the atmospheric vocals of the verse and the heavy riffs of the chorus are a jolt after the poppier direction we have been taken in elsewhere, especially when it’s followed by the gentle, latter day Queen-esque pop of Humans Being, which features eighties legend number two in the form of Nik Kershaw who adds some tasteful lead guitar licks to the track.
Over the years, John Mitchell has proven himself to be a fantastic prog musician and song writer, but with Lonely Robot he has really found his own unique voice. Please Come Home is a fantastic prog-pop record, so let's hope this isn't the last we'll hear from this project.