I have been writing about the music of John Mitchell (Kino, Frost*, Arena, It Bites, Solar) for more than 20 years, and here he is back again with drummer Craig Blundell (The Mute Gods, Frost*, Steven Wilson) as Lonely Robot. This is the fourth album from the band but is also in many ways a fresh start in that the first three are often referred to as “The Astronaut Trilogy’. When asked about this album John said, “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!”
Apart from drums, John does everything on this album, which in many ways is comparable to the work of Devin Townsend except far more melodic and not nearly as dense. Both use walls of sound where the time is right, and produce massively complex music, but while Townsend is coming at it from an out and out metal approach, Mitchell is of course coming in from the progressive area. As one would expect, given his body of work, it is highly commercial and melodic with loads of hooks combined with string production and musicianship. It certainly never sounds as if it is basically a one-man band but far more as if it is a complete outfit who have honed their skills on the road. Although Mitchell is primarily a guitarist, he is also a reasonable keyboard player and the accompaniment he provides on “Crystalline” is sublime: it is a wonderful ballad with his vocals providing a needed edge. If ever there was a example of less is more then this is it, with the bass coming in and out, the same with the drums, and there is just so much space within this that one can relax inside with a smile.
Contrast that to “Life Is A Sine Wave”, which has far more punch and vigour, although it again shifts and moves in different styles – here is an anthem which is designed to get a crowd going in the live environment. Like his Arena bandmate Clive Nolan, Mitchell is able pigeonhole his ideas so different projects have different musical identities, yet in all cases one knows it will be enjoyable, melodic, well played and produced, and just plain fun. Yet another album which is well worth investigating.