Lonely Robot is one of those projects from which I did not expect to see so much activity. I thought it was finished a few times, but it keeps coming back for more. It must be John’s baby, I suppose. Well, there’s a new Lonely Robot album releasing on August 26th, and it is called A Model Life.
I’ve been following John Mitchell’s many projects for a long time, and, besides the debut Frost* album, and have to say that Lonely Robot is my favorite project from him. He handles vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards on this one, and Craig Blundell handles drums. Those two are always working together, it seems. On a side note, I saw Craig play with Steve Hackett live recently, and my opinion of his drumming just continues to fly higher and higher.
Let’s see here—Lonely Robot has basically had the same sound since its inception in 2015. That’s not a bad thing, per se, as I really like the sound. If you like John Mitchell, you will remember his smooth vocals, fresher Floydian guitars, and spacey atmospheres pretty well, I suspect. The albums are always thematically tied from song to song, more or less, and that’s about it. It’s melodic, floating prog rock, and I like it.
I did feel like John tried some different ideas on the previous album in 2020, Feelings Are Good. He included some orchestral versions of a couple tracks, and I really hoped he would continue that. Alas, that was not to be. This album does have some tricks up its sleeve, though. I feel like there is a lullaby sort of tone throughout, and I think this is possibly a more emotional album than the other Lonely Robot releases. That may be because John’s guitar solos are particularly wonderful here. Also, there are some electronic accents and filters placed in key places that I feel break up the tracklist nicely.
Overall, I think this is a good album, a solid release. I would probably rank it with Under Stars from 2019 as far as quality. There are a couple things to note. First, this album is a grower. I know I say that often, but this one really, really falls under that label. I have found that each listen has yielded a bigger and deeper harvest. Second, I think the first and last parts of the album are the strongest. There are 10 tracks, and I think tracks 1-4 and 8-10 are far better than tracks 5-7. Because of this, the album can seem to lull a bit in the middle, but the payoff is huge for staying with it.
Tracks 1-4 are really good. I like the “Recalibrating” single for its upbeat energy. “Digital God Machine” changes that pace, though, with its heavily filtered opening and darker tone. I love it. “Species in Transition” is the best song on the record with its slow-burning style, emotive guitar solos, and explosive portions. I think that is one of the best Lonely Robot songs yet. “Starlit Stardust” ends this portion of the album with a sparkling lullaby of sorts, and it’s a beauty.
Tracks 5-7 aren’t as strong, in my opinion. They aren’t bad songs, necessarily, but they don’t leave an imprint on me, either. I’m not a fan of “The Island of Misfit Toys” or its video, honestly. It’s a driving, colorful song, but maybe a little too goofy for my tastes. The title track follows, and while I like the subtle hook John uses, the song never goes much of anywhere. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t excite me, either. Finally, “Mandalay” is very similar to the title track, being another slow, pensive ballad without anything to grab me. You know, that is why this lull appears in the middle: two very slow songs back to back. You know me, I love slow and ambient music, but these don’t have much in the way of interesting elements or melodic hooks to stick the landing.
Tracks 8-10 are all great, though. I have no idea what a rain king is, but “Rain Kings” is a beautiful song awash in light and hope. I really like it and the rain effects on it. “Duty of Care”, as somewhat dull as that title is, surprised me. It is a brilliant song with perhaps my favorite chorus on the album. I really like how John sings this one, and also how he plays his emotive solos near the end. The closer, “In Memoriam” is everything the title track and “Mandalay” should have been. It is a slower, ethereal sort of song, but it leaves space for interesting keys and subtle guitar musings, and just feels very complete with its melodic hook.
Lonely Robot is still going strong. This might not be the best album to date, but it is a good one, nonetheless. If you don’t like John’s style, you certainly won’t like this, but if you do appreciate him, give this album a few spins before establishing an opinion. It is mostly a slower and more emotional record than before, and I like that sort of thing.
Find Lonely Robot online: