Release Date: 23/09/2013
Mazzy Star return after 17 years with a new album. Is there a Halal or an Into The Dust? Louder Than War takes a listen.
The organ chords start up and, for a moment, I wonder if Mazzy Star have gone all high church on me. But then the slide guitar swoons and Hope Sandoval, with one of the most distinctive voices in music sings: “took a train into the city, you know the one that goes under the bridge”. The opening song is called ‘In The Kingdom’ and once that voice and the guitar are joined in harmony we know that all is right in the Mazzy Star kingdom tonight.
Seasons Of Your Day is the first album by Mazzy Star in 17 years; the last one being 1996’s Among My Swan (preceded by She Hangs Brightly (1990) and So Tonight That I Might See (1993)) although the two main collaborators and writers – Hope Sandoval and David Roback – say they never actually split up the band and, indeed, claim to have written many songs together in those 17 years. Surely a treasure trove for fans to mine in the future. They return with all the original members, plus special guest Colm O’Ciosoig (My Bloody Valentine and member of Hope Sandoval’s Warm Invention; as well as being rumoured to be her paramour).
So have the band dramatically changed styles in those 17 years? The short answer is no. You get exactly what you’d expect from a Mazzy Star album. Which is basically a cross between The Doors and Joni Mitchell. It’s psychedelic folk. The slide guitars are a lonesome wail of a train hurtling through the night, through dust bowls, to the neon lit city at night. The voice is one of longing. Of half forgotten dreams. On ‘California’ (a song reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s song of the same name from her classic Blue album), Sandoval sings: “I think I’m going back to California, somewhere distant, and it’s all far away. It’s so far away.” Everything in the world of Mazzy Star is remembered or hoped for. There is no present. It’s looking back or dreaming of the future. The album was recorded in California and Norway which perfectly reflects the songs lush heat and cold ennui. Even when a mouth organ enters the mix it’s played as though by a crazed Huckleberry Finn.
There are two songs that are classic Mazzy Star compositions, ‘Sparrow’ and ‘Lay Myself Down’. Both have that guitar slide work and the haunting vocals. Though one of my favourites is ‘Common Burn’ where Sandoval sings about how common place acts, when done by a lover, can burn us as much as the passionate moments. There are great blues moments here too, especially on ‘Flying Low’ and ‘Spoon’. On the latter the blues are played out against a duet of guitars from Roback and the late, great Bert Jansch. Both songs run over the 6 minute mark, the guitars crawling like king snakes through some shot gun shack moonshine still to the bar that steams with whisky soaked passion and the blues played back and forth. Sandoval is a strange blues singer – a waif like, fragile, ethereal beauty, like a true medium of long dead blues men. Maybe she is more their muse; their dreadful, hopeless loves that woke up with them in the morning and broke their hearts by breakfast. They’d go to jail for her at the very least. They speak through her to us, from a long gone, half mythic, American Southern Gothic land of crazed preachers, femme fatales, whisky drinking cops, interbred mutants, and the black dark soul of the South.
Nobody quite does Mazzy Star like Mazzy star. As they say themselves the album is “music for lovers, music for broken hearts”.
There may not be a ‘Halal’ or an ‘Into The Dust’ here, but it’s a triumphant return.
Hope Sandoval official website here
Mazzy Star on Facebook here
Mazzy Star on Twitter here
This article first appeared on Louder Than War