Lonely Robot - Under Stars
Lonely Robot is the solo project of guitarist, vocalist and producer John Mitchell. Under Stars is the third part of a trilogy of albums that follow the astronaut as he comes back down to Earth and was released in April 2019. Mitchell wrote all the lyrics and music and plays keyboards and bass on the album. He is joined on drums by Craig Blundell and on bass by Steve Vantsis. The album has a running time of forty-nine minutes and eleven songs with most songs around the five-minute mark. There are also three bonus tracks on the compact disc, but I normally ignore these in my reviews.
Two-minute long album opener “Terminal Earth” opens with radio static. It then follows with a beautiful synth sound that reminds me of the soundtrack to Blade Runner.
“Ancient Ascendant” has a vocal melody, keyboard and guitar sound that are typical Lonely Robot style. I especially love the main riff of this song. Very catchy.
The opening synth riff to “Icarus” also has a lot of sweeping pad sounds. With the simple drum and bass sounds, it has quite an eighties vibe to it during the verses but gets into regular Lonely Robot style in the chorus. It tells the Greek myth of Icarus but with also a lot of influence from the underrated Danny Boyle movie Sunshine and is one of the highlights of the album.
The title track “Under Stars” takes a slower tempo with a minimalist feel to it and almost sounding like a ballad. It has a wonderful guitar solo around the four-minute mark.
“Authorship Of Our Lives” has an ethereal feel to it at moments but is quite bombastic at other times in the song. It is another typical Lonely Robot style but has a few elements that are quite quirky.
“The Signal” is a short three-minute song. There are some drums on the album, but these are more military snares and cymbal crashes with the main instrument being spacey synth sounds and ethereal sound effects.
“The Only Time I Don't Belong Is Now” features some wonderful circular synth riffs and some of the best lead guitar playing on the album. It also has a short section with some very crunchy guitars that sound quite like some of the later Porcupine Tree albums. Another of the highlights.
“When Gravity Fails” starts with some weird circus-like sounds but then the drums and guitars kick in and we are in familiar Lonely Robot territory with a superb distorted guitar riff driving the song.
“How Bright Is The Sun?” is the longest song on the album at just over six minutes long. It is a gentle song which has a lot in common with some of Marillion’s later work. It has not one but two wonderful soaring guitar solos and some beautiful piano sounds. It is probably what I would call Lonely Robot’s Comfortably Numb and is my favourite song on the album.
“Inside This Machine” is an instrumental but a very heavy one. It is built around two completely different guitar solos playing together to give a feeling of disorientation. It makes use of the circus-like synth sounds and effects heard earlier in the album.
“An Ending” is a simple piano based song with that wonderful vocal melody and lyric that we love from the other two albums and completes the circle of the trilogy. All we are is lonely robots.
The third Lonely Robot album completes the trilogy which started with ‘Please Come Home’ and followed by ‘The Big Dream’. John Mitchell is a prolific songwriter with a wonderful style who understands that the five-minute song is just as important as the twenty-five-minute epic. He also has an incredible singing voice and is a fantastic guitar player. It would not be inaccurate to say that Craig Blundell is probably one of the best drummers in the world and his performance on this album is stunning throughout. Another highlight is the use of synthesizers and other keyboard instruments and I did not realize that these were not real instruments but VST plugins such as Omnisphere. I must also mention the stunning visuals in the film of the album created by Crystal Spotlight using CGI and NASA archive footage. I think this has made the album my favourite of the trilogy and one of my favourite albums of 2019.