REVIEW: LONELY ROBOT – “Feelings Are Good”
Last year I discovered and reviewed the delightful prog rock/metal project Lonely Robot for the first time. Strong and lush in melodies and songwriting, this solo project by John Mitchell (also of Frost* and Kino) turned out to be one of the most memorable albums from last year. Now he’s set to release a follow-up album, ‘Feelings Are Good,’ in mid-July. The album is not part of the “Astronaut trilogy” story that was finished last year. Rather it is a collection of stand-alone songs of a more personal nature. The musical approach and sound remain the same.
The album opens with the very short title track. It is sung without backing music, but a vocal effect is added to give him a more robotic sound. It sets up the more personal nature of the albums and the results of feelings and human emotions, both the good and the tragic. The album properly gets going with “Into the Lo-Fi” which is classic LR. It starts off mainly with keys and Mitchell’s vocals before the chorus and crunchy guitars kick in. He is a remarkably consistent songwriter and certainly has developed his own sound over the years. Equal parts prog and shining pop melodies, the combination works very well. And chances are one could probably tell from this song alone if the band was for them or not.
Things get heavier and more aggressive with the following song, “Spiders.” The music of LR is very rarely anything I would call dark. But this song certainly goes into that territory. Presumably an account of love gone wrong, this is one of the heaviest songs on the album, venturing more into metal territory than just rock. Keys of course still play a major part of the sound, but it is the guitars that drive the song along. That and pounding drums of Craig Blundell who gives at times a subtle, and other times thunderous performance throughout the song.
On the opposite side of the band’s sound is “Crystalline” which is almost entirely soft and quiet. Driven mostly by piano and background ambiance, it is a lonely song. Using winter, snow, and ice as metaphors for a painful and broken relationship. In the latter half of the song, electric strings come in and a guitar solo builds intensity, and the emotional effect is quite effective.
Jumping forward we come to two of my favorite songs on the album, “Keeping People As Pets” and “Army of One.” They both exist on the heavier and more prog side of the band’s sound. “KPAP” deals with emotional abuse, both on a personal level, but also arching outward on a societal level. The chorus is especially effective, with heavier keys and guitars, but also grittier and more aggressive vocals as well. “AoO” is one of the longest songs on the album, clocking in at a little over six minutes (which granted is really short by prog standards). The heavier and dominant aggression for this song relies on keys as much as the guitar and drums. The vocals are also more aggressive when called for, and the mixture of the aggression coupled with a melody that will stick in your head is overall highly effective.
The album proper ends with the very short (1:25) “Grief Is the Price of Love.” I think the title says everything that needs to be said about what the song is about. Pain and grief are indeed the price of loving anything, the price of living, and of being human; you can’t escape it no matter how you try. This is the effectual end of the album, but included are two bonus tracks, orchestra versions of “The Silent Life” and “Crystalline.” They are pleasant enough but don’t really add anything to the album.
Lonely Robot is clearly a love project for John Mitchell and one he pours his heart and soul into. Abandoning the sci-fi theme for something more personal, ‘Feelings Are Good’ finds this master songwriter at his best, with a highly personal and engaging album. Occasionally going into metal territory, this album is solid prog rock, occasional flares of technical prowess, but focused far more on effective and highly addictive songwriting and engaging melodies. Highly recommended.