Thursday, October 18, 2007

One-Hit Wonder Week: "Fade Into You," by Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star was technically, I guess, a no-hit wonder, since "Fade Into You" peaked at Number 44 on the Billboard charts, never to reach the Top Forty, although it seemed inescapable for a while on Modern Rock radio and MTV in 1994. That's fitting, in a way, since Mazzy Star never seemed very interested in having hits or becoming rock stars.

Mazzy Star's roots go back to a dream-pop band out of L.A. called Opal, which was headed up by guitarist David Roback (so far as I know, no relation to my sister-in-law) and bassist/vocalist Kendra Smith, who had formerly been in the Dream Syndicate. Singer Hope Sandoval, still in high school, was in a band of her own named Going Home and also a big Dream Syndicate fan, and somehow got her demo tape into Smith's hands. Smith passed the demo tape along to Roback, who ended up producing a never-released album for Going Home.

When Smith abruptly quit Opal in the middle of a tour, Roback asked Sandoval to step in, and she did. Once they got off the road, the two of them dissolved Opal and formed Mazzy Star. They put out She Hangs Brightly, their debut album, in 1990, then followed that up with the major-label So Tonight That I Might See, in 1993. It didn't go anywhere for a long time, until "Fade Into You" started creeping up the charts a year later; it eventually hit Number Five on the Modern Rock charts.

Roback had worked mostly in psychedelic excursions in his early years, while Sandoval was more of a dreamy Dust Bowl folkie, and So Tonight is pretty well divided between the two styles, neither of which was wholly successful. It's only on "Fade Into You" that the two genres cross, resulting in a tightly constructed song with haunting vocals and ethereal slide-guitar work. (So Tonight, by the way, is the only full album I own for any of the artists I've written about this week.) If you look up the word languid in the dictionary, you'll see a description of a word that well describes "Fade Into You."

Neither Sandoval nor Roback was much interested in playing the rock star game, giving terse, unhelpful interviews and not being very entertaining on stage. "For me recording is better," Sandoval said. "Live, I just get really nervous. Once you're onstage, you're expected to perform. I don't do that. I always feel awkward about just standing there and not speaking to the audience. It's difficult for me."

Mazzy Star would release one more album, 1996's Among My Swan, then without ever officially breaking up, they just kind of faded. Like I said, it never seemed that their hearts were really in it, but that kind of frustrated indifference permeates "Fade Into You," and helps make it what it is.

Here's the video for "Fade Into You," which is certainly not the direction I would have taken it. The video is suffused with daylight, although the song sounds to me like it was sung at about 2:30 in the morning, all sleepy-eyed languor, when you don't have the energy to get up and go home and even if you did, it wouldn't be any better than where you are now.

That concludes One-Hit Wonder Week here at "One Poor Correspondent." Thanks for tuning in. I hope you had as much fun with it as I did.

1 comment:

Joe said...

I think Mazy Star may have caused Rob Sheffield to coin the term "woozy chanteuse," which he has not confined to descriptions of Hope Sandoval.