Recommended Albums #71

lonely

Lonely Robot: Please Come Home (2015)

A broad appreciation of music often requires the effort of shedding certain personal prejudices we may have acquired, whether it’s a dislike for soft rock, an aversion to steel guitar, an intolerance for unpolished vocals, or simply the lack of interest in a particular genre.

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Of course, if you’ve decided you really don’t enjoy the blues, for example, it’s valid to stop trying to like the blues. Appreciation shouldn’t be work.

The prejudice Lonely Robot’s Please Come Home helped dispel for me was against female vocals in progressive tock. Weaned on Pink Floyd, Yes and Jethro Tull like so many my age, I’d had a deep-rooted belief that this genre just didn’t work with pretty female vocals out front.

But Lonely Robot is indeed a prog album–though it’s more proggy in terms of its atmosphere and aesthetic than by virtue of any compositional complexity or lyrical impenetrability. And it does feature prominent female vocals on several songs. And it works.

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Lonely Robot is the nom de plume of singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer John Mitchell, one of the busiest and most prolific figures of the British progressive rock scene. As a member of bands such as Arena, It Bites, Kino, Frost and The Urbane he’s seemingly always either recording or touring the work of one or another band.

This time he decided to step out on his own, although many modern prog notables appear as support. This concept album, inspired by Mitchell’s love of science fiction, is similar to the work of fellow Brits Steve Thorne and Dave Kerzner, who carefully craft albums of thoughtful and melodic crossover prog and record them with the help of an impressive cast of luminaries of the genre.

Please Come Home‘s eleven tracks are linked lyrically by certain motifs and phrases, and Mitchell describes its arc thusly:

“The concept is about the way in which some ancient civilisations – for instance, the Mayans, the Egyptians and the Chinese – had technology way beyond what they should have had at the time. And I’m talking about the millennium up to 1000AD. It’s as if some people had been transplanted onto the planet from another world and time.”

As for project name, in addition to saying Lonely Robot sounded much more interesting than releasing an album under the name John Mitchell, he says:

“It represents the human condition. I’m not suggesting that human beings behave like robots, but so many people lead regimented lives and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not realise or know how to get out of it.”

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Although the record contains enough uptempo tunes to maintain rock cred, ballads such as “Why Do We Stay” and “Humans Being” are some of the most alluring and affecting compositions here. Gilmouresque guitar solos add to the gloomy Englishness of the album.

If the feel of Please Come Home appeals to you, check out the above-mentioned Steve Thorne and Dave Kerzner as well as perhaps this blog’s most oft-recommended band, Blackfield.

Accessible melodies are a strong suit for Mitchell and he plays to that strength here. Although fans of Frost and It Bites may argue, I think this is his best work yet.

Listen to: “Why Do We Stay?”

Listen to: “Lonely Robot” (edit)

Listen to: “Oubilette”

Listen to: “Construct/Obstruct”

Listen to: “Humans Being”

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/05/07/songs-you-may-have-missed-409/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/03/15/songs-you-may-have-missed-53/

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