“No One Falls Alone”, the call for compassion and understanding that opens the No Ones‘ debut album, The Great Lost No Ones Album, feels like an accidental anthem for the spring of 2020. “If I last another hour without some better bitter news…,” sing Scott McCaughey and Frode Strømstad, before eventually noting, “There’s no other home / Be kind for no one falls alone.”
Those are oddly prescient lyrics for a song that was written and recorded in June 2017 but is just now seeing the light of day. And it’s about time. But when your band includes two guys in Norway and two guys in Portland, Oregon, timetables can be weird.
In addition to the McCaughey and Strømstad, the No Ones is comprised of Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen and Peter Buck. McCaughey is the founder of classic Pacific Northwest bands like Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5; Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen and Strømstad are members of Norway’s I Was a King; and Buck, well, he’s been around. As a band, the No Ones have created an album that doesn’t necessarily beat any brand new or wildly innovative musical paths but could be one of the most satisfying guitar pop-rock albums you’ll hear this year.
“No One Falls Alone”, whose lyrics are matched by a soaring pop melody, is the perfect starting point for the album, which touches on a variety of sounds and styles throughout its 13 songs. The second track, “(Going Back to) Stockholm Syndrome”, is a guitar rave-up (McCaughey, Buck, and Strømstad all play guitar on the album) that makes room for some woozy keyboards as well.
“Clementine”, another uptempo rocker, adds some subtle psychedelic touches to the mix. Meanwhile, McCaughey alludes to “darling Clementine”, adding the No Ones to a long line of pop culture entities that have referenced the classic 1884 western folk ballad, “Oh My Darling Clementine”, including, but not limited to, Huckleberry Hound, Lieutenant Columbo, Bobby Darin, Tom Lehrer, and movie characters in Hud, Repo Man, and Eternal Sunshine of the Mind.
While the No Ones show a decided proclivity toward rocking out, they’ve included some dreamy slower tracks on the album. “Sun Station Vadsø” is an evocative description of a Norwegian town, above the Arctic Circle, where the band members have gathered for a pair of music festivals. Another quieter track, the brief “Cinnamon Roll Hair”, could be the second-best song about Carrie Fisher ever, combining Fisher’s thoughts with a Star Wars reference and a hat tip to the best song about Carrie Fisher ever, Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones”.
The Great Lost No Ones Album ends with “Turn Again”, a deliberately Byrds-invoking tune that ruminates on the search for meaning and connection as we grow older, or as we’re weathering a life crisis. As with “No One Falls Alone”, “Turn Again” wasn’t meant to be a pandemic-ready anthem, but it is certainly a song for these times and beyond. And the entire The Great Lost No Ones Album is a record for these times and beyond as well.