A Beginner’s Guide To Mazzy Star

If, as this week’s NME feature proves, interviewing Mazzy Star is a blood-from-a-stone process akin to chewing off your own toes, thankfully, listening to their gorgeous music has never been hard work. A band that make critics gush adjectives like stuck pigs, their narcotic, narcoleptic fug of country and psychedelia is sexy, smouldering, unsettling and unhealthily addictive. Their debut album, ‘She Hangs Brightly’ is one of my most listened-to ever, and their others are just as hard to shake. Strange, really, as they’re hardly the most stylistically varied band in the world, but then, perhaps their power lies in their minimalism. Just a strum here, a smoky purr there, a lazy tambourine slap, and you’re undone.

Their influence can be heard clearly in Lana Del Rey, in Beach House, Dum Dum Girls and many more: anyone who makes being stoned sound gorgeous and languid rather than dry-eyed, parched and paranoid, basically. If your curiousity is piqued, don’t bother asking them any questions… here’s where to get started (but certainly not to finish).


A sedate, stoned jangle, graceful slide guitar, Hope Sandoval sounding as not-botheredly divine as an immortal teenager who can see through time, and is frankly unbelievably bored by it all (well, up until the deftly heartbreaking line “I need to hear you say goodbye/Baby won’t you change your mind?”, anyway): the opening track of their debut album is one perfect introduction to Mazzy Star’s world…

‘Ghost Highway’
…The other being this reverb-drenched squall of doom-mongering psych-goth. Mazzy Star spend much of their time as languid as an overspoiled cat, but don’t think they haven’t got claws. They’ll scratch out your soul, “Your eyes are an island/And I’ll love them forever/Forever and ever,” drones Sandoval, but as the organs swim and swirl and the rusty riffs shark through the maelstrom, you get the feeling you probably won’t need those eyes where she’s taking you.

‘Fade Into You’
This is Mazzy Star’s most played and best-known song for a reason. Its presence on a million mixtapes since its release in 1993 might make it ‘the obvious one’, but whereas say, ‘Flowers In December’, the most succesful single from the following album, ‘Among My Swan’, is lovely but not that album’s best moment, ‘Fade Into You’ is completely crucial to their second record ‘So Tonight That I Might See’, obvious in the way the moon is obvious. It’s a play on repeat deal, swaying like a sad, drunk hug, Sandoval’s voice more lullaby than dirge as she promises “A stranger’s heart without a home/You put your hands into your head/And then its smiles cover your heart”.

‘Take Everything’
Much of Mazzy Star’s 1996 third album ‘Among My Swan’ foregrounded their country tendencies more than the previous two albums, with less echo and more intimacy. This track, however, with guitar by Sandoval’s then-paramour William Reid of the Jesus And Mary Chain (for another essential Star/Chain collaboration, see the Mary Chain’s ‘Sometimes, Always’, one of the great indie rock duets) adds a heavier, slightly alt-rockier edge, a poison bitterness in Sandoval’s voice bleeding down the rusty sharpness of the Neil Youngish guitar snarls.

It’s a tough call between this and the Doorsy, lusty blues swamp of ‘’Flying Low’ for the pick of new album ‘Seasons Of Your Day’, released this week. ‘Sparrow’, though, just edges it, by lulling you into classic Mazzy territory with luring slide guitar, seductively slow tambourine slaps then knocking you sideways with a freaking harpsichord solo. Don’t let it be said that those crazy kids never innovate. Bonus points, also, for Sandoval’s surly request: “Give me one bottle of wine and two for the road”. I hear ya, sister.