20 Minutes into the Future, Moral Guardians outlaw rock and roll. Enforcing the new law, a riot breaks out at a concert by the famous "Kilroy" at the Paradise Theatre, someone dies, and Kilroy is framed as a murderer. He is imprisoned, guarded by "Mr. Robotos", mass-produced menial-labor robots. Kilroy breaks out, disguising himself in the body of a Roboto he has overpowered. Using a "rock code" graffiti, he leads a protegé, Jonathan Chance, to meet him in the Paradise Theatre, now a museum to rock-and-roll depravity. And then it ends.
Following on the success of the Concept Album Paradise Theatre (and three multi-platinum albums before that), the Kilroy album and tour were far more ambitious, with a pre-concert mini-film that set up the story, scripted dialogue and choreography in concert, and specific roles for each of the band members. But instead of taking it to the next level, the band jumped the shark, breaking up and never going multi-platinum again. The album's convulted production is chronicled on an episode of Behind the Music.
The story has many similarities to Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage: both feature robot-filled futures with moral overlords who hate rock-and-roll and throw the rocker protagonist in prison. Zappa's work is distinguished by having trickier time signatures, as well as much more gay sex with robots. You could almost mistake Joe's Garage for a parody of Kilroy Was Here, but for the fact that Joe's came out four years earlier.
- "Mr. Roboto" (5:28)
- "Cold War" (4:27)
- "Don't Let It End" (4:56)
- "High Time" (4:33)
- "Heavy Metal Poisoning" (4:57)
- "Just Get Through This Night" (6:06)
- "Double Life" (3:46)
- "Haven't We Met Here Before?" (4:06)
- "Don't Let It End (Reprise)" (2:22)
"Tropes Were Here":
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The story takes place in the future, but not a very distant one.
- Aborted Arc: Between the opening "Mr. Roboto" (in which Kilroy reveals himself to Jonathan), and "Don't Let It End (Reprise)" (in which Kilroy and Jonathan vow to revive rock and roll), nothing happens: the other songs just describe the world of Kilroy from the point of view of the three main characters. Except for "Don't Let It End", a love ballad that has nothing to do with the story at all.
- All There in the Manual: The premise and the entire plot is described in the liner notes to the album and the mini-film.
- Bland-Name Product: "Dr. Righteous' Fried Chicken." The boxes are done in a similar fashion to Kentucky Fried Chicken's boxes.
- Book Burning: In the mini-film at the start, but with records and guitars. The concert from the 'Caught in the Act' video featured prop guitars being snapped over the Panozzos' knees, while JY fed his (prop) to an MMM 'Guitar Shredder'.
- Continuity Nod: A "Paradise Theatre" is featured in the story. This is a reference to Styx's previous album of the same name, also a Concept Album set in the Chicago movie theater of the same name.
- Cyberpunk: Technology, robots, lost of humanity, outlaws, rebellion, it's all here.
- Face on the Cover: Not of the band, but of two Robotos with an angry book-burning mob in the background.
- Fun with Acronyms: Kilroy's full name is Robert Orin Charles Kilroy, or R.O.C.K.
- Gratuitous Japaneseどうもありがとう、ミスターロボット、(Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto)Translationまた会う日まで。 (Mata au hi made)Translationどうもありがとう、ミスターロボット、(Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto)秘密を知りたい。(himitsu o shiri tai)Translation
- Groin Attack: For some reason, the Robotos react to getting hit in the groin the same way a man could, as shown in the mini-film of Kilroy breaking out from prison.
- Japan Takes Over the World: The Robotos, who enforce Dr. Righteous' theocracy, are built "with parts made in Japan."
- Large Ham: James Young during "Heavy Metal Poisoning" during the concerts. Might even qualify as Ham and Cheese.
- Ludd Was Right: "Mr. Roboto". Todd in the Shadows called out the hypocrisy of this, coming as it did from a band whose lead singer played an electronic keyboard as his primary instrument.The problem's plain to seeToo much technologyMachines to save our livesMachines dehumanize
- Moral Guardians: Dr. Righteous and the "Majority for Musical Morality"
- One-Man Song: "Mr. Roboto".
- Oppressive States of America: A theocratic America emerges that outlaws rock and roll.
- Power Ballad: "Don't Let It End".
- Questioning Title?: "Haven't We Met Here Before?"
- Rock Opera: Though given the total non-advancement of the story through the songs, it might just be a very detailed Concept Album.
- Slasher Smile: From certain angles, the Robotos are less "Yellow Peril caricature" and more "I'm going to kill you slowly and painfully."
- Subliminal Seduction: Subverted. Right before "Heavy Metal Poisoning", there's an obvious backmasked message. Played backwards, it's the Latin phrase Annuit cptis, Novus ordo seclorum, part of the Seal of the United States on a $1 bill, and roughly translated as "God approves of our undertakings/ a new order of the ages." This is likely in response to accusations that "Snowblind", a song from the band's previous album Paradise Theatre, had "backwards Satanic messages" on it.
- Suck E. Cheese's: Righteous' museum (formerly the Paradise Theatre) has shades of this, complete with an animatronic Kilroy band "murdering" an MMM protestor.
- Theme Naming
- Rockstar Kilroy's full name is Robert Orin Charles Kilroy, or R.O.C.K.
- The member of the resistance who's fighting for a chance is named Jonathan Chance.
- The righteous theocrat is straight-out named Dr. Righteous.
- Unrobotic Reveal: The main point of "Mr. Roboto" is that the Roboto Chance found is actually Kilroy.
- Villain Song: "Heavy Metal Poisoning" and "Double Life" are both from the antagonist's viewpoint. "Double Life" is a Villainous BSoD song where Righteous realizes what a terrible hypocrite he is, but feels he's too far in to dig his way out.
- Yellow Peril: The slant-eyed, Japanese-built "Mr. Robotos" are an obvious racial caricature, and probably more than a little racist. At the time of the album's release, they were likely meant as a commentary on Japanese car-makers putting Americans out of work. In the accompanying minifilm, one of the prisoners in the eating area mocks a Roboto that his "mother's a Toyota."