Tag Archives: song essay

Mazzy Star-Blue Light

10 Jul

The first in a series of essays that discusses songs of importance and interest.

Mazzy Star-Blue Light

“I fucking hate Mazzy Star!”

That was the declaration made in the middle of an army of broken Converse and 70’s inspired T-shirts. I mean how else was a child of the Seattle school of Rock and Roll supposed to react to these meandering bleary songs of quiet heartbreak and wistfulness? It’s not that I hadn’t felt my share of heartbreak by the tender age of 13. After all I had chased a cute girl throughout my 3rd– 5th grades in the finest puppy love way possible, to her utter dismay. Which of course started the kind of failure based domino effect, like the one that caused America to panic and commit to a war in Vietnam, to linger around my love life. Of course like America, I did a downright shit job of keeping those dominoes from tumbling.

At the time of ‘Blue Light’s’ release, I believe I had crushes or semi-crushes on a few older girls all of whom were beautiful in markedly different ways, but each one found there way into my heart. Not that I had any particular plan to tell them that I felt that way or that they had floated their way into assorted chaste daydreams that I spent much of class time thinking about. These were the same girls who liked Mazzy Star.

In fact I think all of them liked Mazzy Star…they also liked such luminaries as Veruca Salt(not so bad now that time has freed them Juliana Hatfield’s looming shadow), Weezer(people still love the Blue Album, which I of course hate) Frente(one great cover keeps them in everyone’s iTunes),  and the absurdly overwrought 10,000 Maniacs(who despite having one of the more recognizable singers of the era, consistently found a way to reinvent terrible).

It was in the middle of these 9th grade art classes, we were allowed to play albums during the creative process. Sometimes we got to blare the great Soundgarden albums or Smashing Pumpkin records that one of the guys would bring in, but other times the girls would break out some whiny record, like Mazzy Star, and force us to listen to it for the whole hour.

I never got Mazzy Star. I mean Fade Into You wasn’t that great as a single. If it came on the radio, I certainly never turned the channel, but I’d much rather hear another spin of ‘Heart Shaped Box’ by Nirvana or perhaps ‘My Name Is Mud’ by Primus. It was promptly dismissed  for many years afterwards as “girls music” or punctuated with an abusive declaration such as “I fucking hate Mazzy Star!”

However, somewhere around 2002, I bought their most successful album, So Tonight I Might See. From a used bin, I liberated the CD. For some reason it called to me, despite not really having any affinity for the band. Maybe it was those same girls lingering around, nostalgia of having to sit through those records that I couldn’t be bothered with over and over.

I remember working through the first four songs, but the first thing that really grabbed was Blue Light. I didn’t remember the song from those old art classes and even then it wouldn’t have worked on me because it’s not really the kind of song you play in the middle of the day. In fact all of Mazzy Star’s work tends to gain power as the hours progress, a fact only reaffirmed by Hope Sandoval’s reluctance to sing with lights blaring on the band as they perform live.

That strange opening church organ…it is one of the most uplifting and haunting moments I’ve ever heard. It sounds downright spiritual. Not in a calling to the heavens kind of way, it feels more like a nod to those late hours when there’s no one left but you. There’s nothing but the array of thoughts the day has left  you with, some of which lift you, some of which just tear you down. This organ never lingers in the background of the whole song, fading more to the background, as a typical Mazzy Star guitar riff from David Roback comes in. There’s always a sway and a jangle to the riff that plays throughout the song and defines most of the work done by the band on So Tonight I May See. That repetition breeds comfort and adds warmth to a vocal performance by Hope Sandoval who somehow straddles disaffection and total sensitivity. Hope’s vocals are like one extended flat whisper, barely doing more than she needs to, until those rare moments when she injects a bit of her strange fifties-ish soul that can make that one line far more powerful or heartbreaking. These lines only grow in power due to the fact that there’s not even a real chorus within the song, because there is only room for the emotions at the core of the matter, everything else is bullshit.

The lyrics themselves bounce around into slumberscapes and metaphors, all of which I like, but it is the opening stanza that gets to that gut feeling and remains so memorable.

“There’s a blue light in my best friends room.”

“There’s a blue light in his eyes”

“There’s a blue light…yeah”

“I wanna see it…shine.”

I write it out here and the words don’t seem special. They seem almost too simple or just plain silly and yet when she sings it, it sounds like the most heartfelt thing in the world.

And that’s why I didn’t get Mazzy Star as a teenager. Because when I would sit and daydream these tales of chaste love about some of the girls sitting near me in assorted classes, each thought would be some hormone driven epic interpretation of love. What we’d do, where we’d go, all of it in one big confused jumble. When in reality it is as simple as Hope says it is. Deep down all I want to see, is the eyes of a girl I love shine.