US/Norwegian collaboration produces an occasionally retro but always impressive sound.
With a line-up that stretches from Norway through Athens, Georgia, to the Northwest corner of the U.S., The No Ones are comprised of Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen, and Frode Strømstad. And yes, it is that Peter Buck. The first edition double LP comprises 18 tracks so there is plenty of Buck for your money (sorry!).
After a couple of early, noisy rockers the album settles into a groove of jangly guitars, big, bold chorus lines with lots of harmonies and the hugely impressive contribution of Mathisen on drums. If Buck is the attention grabber with those guitar riffs then Mathisen is an equal partner in the scheme of things.
With those guitars and harmonies The Byrds are brought to mind on a number of occasions none more so than on ‘Time Sent Lewis’. Compared with most of the album this is a gentle and dreamy piece but close your eyes and it really does feel like a slice of Californian 60s history come to life. For a companion piece in style and tone turn to ‘Solo In The End’.
The album is brim full of nods to heroes and artists who have inspired the band. ‘Song For George’ is a reflective, mid-tempo number that features Buck on electric sitar that pays homage to George Harrison and could quite easily have come out of the man’s late-career songbook. The affection for the man is confirmed by his appearance on the album cover.
‘Phil Ochs is Dead’ pays tribute to the man once considered the most serious challenger to Dylan’s protest folk; “Phil Ochs is dead, the singing journalist was tried, and found guilty of trying…..Phil Ochs is dead, the sinking socialist got lost and found, guilty of belief.”
18 tracks give ample opportunity to develop themes and the life of a gigging band on the road is told in three stages. ‘Set List’ sets out the unspoken contract between band and audience, ‘One Night At The Fillmore’ relates to a historic music venue in San Francisco while the album is brought an apt conclusion with ‘The After Party’ which really does what is says on the tin.
For one last signpost try ‘Cameo Parkway’ with its deep bass groove and organ solo it comes over as a nostalgic piece of psychedelia. Highly original, the track stands alone in style and tempo.
For the album, the group enlisted backing vocals contributions from friends Debbi Peterson (The Bangles), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), and Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven) on bass, and strings from Marin Stallemo Bakke. Their contribution has helped cement this as an album to be reckoned with.