- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

"It's, uh, sort of a weird message to somebody," is the way Mazzy Star frontwoman Hope Sandoval explains her album title "Bavarian Fruit Bread." The ethereal chanteuse brings her new band, The Warm Inventions, to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday.

Ranging over three albums and including an unlikely Top 40 hit ("Fade Into You"), Mazzy Star's dream-pop came from veteran psychedelic rocker David Roback's guitar and Miss Sandoval's introspective lyrics. This time the music is also mostly hers, and her muse is drummer-guitarist-keyboardist Colm O'Ciosoig of noise-poppers My Bloody Valentine.

On the phone from her San Francisco home, Miss Sandoval seems as naturally sweet and coy (and preternaturally shy and soft-spoken) as she does onstage. But she's quite forceful when asked why the Mazzy hiatus occurred.

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"Mazzy Star is sort of like a marriage, and even though it's a good marriage, there's still those times where you have to debate and you don't want to."

Every marriage needs space, which means no old songs this time around. "I wouldn't feel comfortable; those are David's songs as well. I think that Mazzy Star fans would feel ripped off if we did a Mazzy Star song without David's guitar." (Luckily, a new Mazzy album and tour are in the works.)

Even more so than Miss Sandoval's prior albums, "Bavarian" should not be used while operating heavy machinery. Creating more mood than music, she breathes and whispers lyrics as if singing in her sleep. But on "Feeling of Grace" she ups the pitch during "celebrate, celebrate," trilling it as though briefly cracking a smile and telling the listener, "Hey, this is as happy as I get."

On most of the songs Miss Sandoval's glockenspiel provides pretty background, though her harmonica is pretty jarring. She makes an excellent country chanteuse on the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Drive," and makes you wilt on "Butterfly Mornings" when she slurs her words toward the end as if lost in the mood.

She'll drift off onstage "sometimes, if I can hear only the music." But the last gig, she says, they had a "really wild crowd."

"The whole time it was really difficult for us all to hear ourselves, to really get lost," she says dejectedly.

Concertgoers, you've been warned.

Richard Thompson fans annoyed at his receiving second billing at Wolf Trap last summer will be happy to see him (and his beret) headlining the intimate Birchmere on Tuesday and Wednesday.

An English folk troubadour for 35 years (starting with the legendary Fairport Convention), Mr. Thompson is one of music's most respected and powerful acoustic guitarists. His current album, "Semi-Detached Mock Tudor," finds him playing electric guitar with a band.

"Detached" was compiled from his November 1999 "Mock Tudor" album tour (including two Birchmere shows) and shows Mr. Thompson ably aided by son Teddy and veteran double-bassist Danny Thompson (no relation).

There's lots of great jamming on the album (notably on the 12-minute "Hard on Me" and the Oysterband-styled "Two-Faced Love"), but it sometimes detracts from Mr. Thompson's lyrics and acoustic prowess, the foundations of his reputation.

None of the album's songs (save perhaps "Cooksferry Queen") has the folk storytelling power of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," his live staple about a modern highwayman with a cool motorcycle. But the dying-relationship songs are painful just to read, even without the music.

He's literally just a shell in "Uninhabited Man" ("I'll find my feet again you say. What rock I had you rolled away"). "When The Spell Is Broken" sees the end of love and a couple's self-contained world ("All the joy is gone from her face/Welcome back to the human race.").

Sometimes the woman is to blame ("She Twists the Knife Again"), or both partners are (the biting "Razor Dance"), but in "A Man in Need" the unfulfilled narrator leaves because "You've got to ride in one direction/Until you find the right connection." Spoken like a real wandering troubadour.

Mr. Thompson's Web site (www.richardthompson-music.com) reveals that his new album is 98 percent finished. He's hopeful for a release in January of next year.

And he's got several good new songs to choose from. "I Agree With Pat Metheny" takes easy but deserved shots at Kenny G ("He makes Britney sound like scat/If this is jazz I'll eat my hat"), while "Madonna's Wedding" is self-explanatory. Best of all is the frankly hilarious song, "My Daddy is a Mummy," which they loved in Vienna and should also in Alexandria.

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