The track opens with a wash of static, building to a Bossa nova drum pattern and atmospheric piano. “If I could see/ Just how lonely my life would be/ If you passed me by and said farewell/ And there is no return,” Hynde gently croons. “Stars would shine no more/ I would walk up and down this lonely room/ I would have friends, but be alone/ For there is no return.” The piece grows stranger as it progresses, slowly crescendoing into a spiral of keyboards, strings, woodwinds and processed vocal loops.
Hynde previously recorded two songs written by the Kinks’ Ray Davies: The Pretenders covered the band’s 1964 cut “Stop Your Sobbing” for their self-titled debut record in 1980, and they tackled “I Go to Sleep” — a Davies-penned single released by the Applejacks in 1965 — for 1981’s Pretenders II. (Davies is the father of Hynde’s oldest daughter, Natalie.)
Despite her obvious love of the Kinks’ music, Hynde told Billboard she “wasn’t really familiar with” “No Return” before producer Marius de Vries selected the song to include on her upcoming covers album, Valve Bone Woe. She also admitted “it never occurred to [her]” to run the song by Davies. “The album’s not out, so I guess he hasn’t heard it, but I have no idea,” she said. “I can only imagine any songwriter’s happy when someone covers their song — why shouldn’t they be? Even if it’s bad, they’re still covering your song.”
The jazz-flavored, 14-track Valve Bone Woe features Hynde’s interpretations of songs by Charles Mingus, the Beach Boys, Nick Drake, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra and Rodgers and Hammerstein, among others.