Category Archives: NEWS

Bad And Good Restaurants: The Olive Garden

As if he isn’t already wearing enough hats, our movie guru, Jud Cost, spurred on by a foul dining experience and armed with a large bottle of Tums, has been appointed MAGNET’s West Coast restaurant critic, a decision he may already regret.

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It’s hard to believe the Olive Garden has been in business for more than 30 years with more than 800 restaurants worldwide—especially if you’ve ever eaten there. My wife dined at the Palo Alto, Calif., location 20-plus years ago and warned me that it was pretty bad. But nothing short of the angel of death imbedding a flaming axe in my front door could have kept me from trying the place at least once. Tonight, I got my chance.

I mean, how bad could a place be that serves the Italian holy trinity of fried calamari, a green salad with vinaigrette dressing and a big slab of lasagna? The answer descended upon us like rogue waves when you’re surfing the ocean coming from the sewage treatment plant after a summer squall has caused a tank overload.

The seawater metaphor is particularly apt, as every dish we had (short of my OK glass of house Chianti) was drowned in salt. Even one of their advertising signature items, “an unlimited supply of bread sticks,” has been unmistakably bathed in salt. No big deal. The sticks are nothing more than elongated hot dog buns with a crust. Unlike most California restaurants, their basket of fried calamari contained no circular pieces of tentacle or whole baby squid. These were in strip form, tinted an odd beige and, again, marinated in salt. The house salad consisted of 80 percent white lettuce that tasted like it had done hard time in a warehouse. The slices of tomato could have come from a jar, if that’s possible.

My wife’s entree was a lightly sautéed, over-salted chicken breast that could have been found in a fast-food joint’s chicken sandwich. I had to ask our waiter if my entree really was lasagna. Instead of the majestic slice you’d expect, this was a sad little lump covered with melted cheese and what could have been Campbell’s tomato soup, thickened with arrowroot.

So yeah, it was bad. Our meal immediately vaulted into my top five of bad restaurant lifetime experiences, right next to the British place in Winchester whose waiter, a Basil Fawlty look-alike, raised a big stink when I complained that my duck breast was still partially frozen. Our Olive Garden server was excellent. What he served us left a brackish taste in my mouth that required a quart of skim milk to quench once we returned home.

Overwhelmed by the bad food, I forgot to mention one marvelous highlight. They have non-stop jazz playing here while you eat. And not just that unidenfifiable Muzak they play in some joints. What’s the last time you dug Charlie Parker in high flight in a local eatery? We also heard my fave track by Horace Silver, “Cookin’ At The Continetal,” and some groovy sides by Anita O’Day. It eases the pain somewhat.

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In The News: Fall, Les Paul, Owl City, Albert Hammond Jr., Noah Gundersen And More

Fall

The 31st studio album from the Fall, Sub-Lingual Tablet, is due out from Cherry Red on June 9 … June 9 marks the 100th birthday of Les Paul, and UMe will honor the occasion with the release of Les Paul Icon, an 11-track selection of his hits from his Capitol and Decca years, featuring vocals by then-wife Mary Ford … Mobile Orchestra, the new Owl City record, will be available from Republic on July 10 … Albert Hammond Jr.’s third solo effort, Momentary Masters, is set for a July 31 release via Vagrant/BMG. He’ll hit the road this fall for a North American tour … The Dentists’ Bob Collins has a new project, Bob Collins & The Full Nelson, which will issue Telescopic Victory Kiss on Jigsaw on June 16 … Dualtone will issue the sophomore release from Noah Gundersen, Carry The Ghost, on August 21 … On June 9, the new double album from Martin Newell, Teatime Assortment, will be available from Captured Tracks … Tim Harrington of Les Favy Fav has ventured into the world of children’s books with Nose To Toes, You Are Yummy, due out May 19 on HarperCollins. An accompanying song, “Every Little Bit of You is Yummy,” is available for download now.

—Emily Costantino

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In The News: Bird And The Bee, Tame Impala, Langhorne Slim, Third Eye Blind, Ducktails, Air, British Sea Power, Brother Dege And More

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The fourth album by the Bird And The Bee, Recreational Love, is due out July 17 from Rostrum … Tame Impala’s third studio LP, Currents, will be available from Interscope on July 17. A supporting world tour will take place this summer … Dualtone will issue the new Langhorne Slim album, The Spirit Moves, on August 7 … After a six-year hiatus, Third Eye Blind is back with Dopamine, which will be released June 16. The band hits the road later this month for a North American tour alongside Dashboard Confessional … On May 19, the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited will be released on vinyl by ABKCO. It features tracks by the Kinks and the Rolling Stones, as well as the music of Satyajit RayLet The Bells Ring On is the debut album by Charlie Hunter, Curtis Fowlkes And Bobby Previte, set for a June 9 release via Hunter’s label, Charlie Hunter Music … The fifth album from Ducktails, St. Catherine, will be released by Domino on July 24 … Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides turns 15 this year, and Warner/Parlophone will celebrate the occasion with a deluxe edition of Air’s soundtrack to the film. The Virgin Suicides: 15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is due out June 16, complete with studio outtakes, a previously unreleased live performance, and more … Boys Life has announced the August 14 reissue of sophomore LP Departures And Landfalls via Topshelf … Last year’s digital-only release from Brother Dege, Scorched Earth Policy, will be released as a deluxe version on CD and digital formats on July 24 … Omnivore will issue a 19-track CD featuring the work of Carl Hall, You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972, on June 23 … On June 8, British Sea Power will reissue its debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power, via its Golden Chariot imprint.

—Emily Costantino

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In The News: Richard Thompson & Jeff Tweedy, Titus Andronicus, Dream Syndicate, Who, Fall, Freedy Johnston, Parlour Tricks And More

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Richard Thompson has announced the June 23 release of his Jeff Tweedy-produced new album, Still, on Fantasy … After 17 years, Refused has returned to bring us Freedom via Epitaph on June 30. The band will embark on a world tour this summer … Merge has signed Titus Andronicus and will issue the band’s fourth studio album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (a five-act rock opera) on July 28. Leading up to the release, the band will perform a five-night engagement at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium … The Days Of Wine And Roses, the Dream Syndicate’s long out-of-print debut album, will be available again complete with unheard bonus tracks on June 16 via Omnivore … On June 30, the Who’s Live At Shea Stadium 1982 will be released in its entirety for the first time on DVD, Blu-ray and digital video by Eagle Rock, in celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary … The Arkive, the new catalog and archive department for Beggars Group, has announced the June 16 reissue of several albums by the Fall: The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall, The Wonderful And Frightening Escape Route to The Fall, This Nation’s Saving Grace and Schtick: Yarbles Revisited … The Grammy Award-winning Thelonious Monk anthology by Concord Music Group, The Complete Riverside Recordings, will be reissued on May 19 via the Riverside imprint as a reconfigured boxed set … Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin will release new album The High Country on June 2 via Polyvinyl … Neon Repairman is the first new album in five years from Freedy Johnston, due out June 25 … July 24 marks the release of Eleni Mandell’s 10th studio album, Dark Lights Up, via Yep Roc … The debut LP from Parlour Tricks, Broken Hearts/Bones, will be available from Bar None on June 23 … Summer Fiction’s latest full-length, Himalaya, is due out June 16.

—Emily Costantino

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In The News: Spoon, R.E.M., Ryan Adams, Faith No More, Jean-Paul Sartre Experience And More

Spoon

On April 28, Spoon will release an EP of remixes, Inside Out Remixes, featuring four versions of the band’s song by Fabrizio Moretti, Operators, Tycho and Brian Reitzell. The band will also hit the road for a North American tour in May … R.E.M. By MTV, the acclaimed documentary by Alexander Young chronicling the simultaneous careers of R.E.M. and MTV, will be available from Rhino on June 2 … Eyelids (which features members of the Decemberists, Guided By Voices, the Jicks and more) have announced the June 23 release of a new self-titled EP via Jealous Butcher/Schizophonic … Legacy will issue the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s upcoming film Songs Of Aloha on May 26. It features appearances by Fleetwood Mac, Kurt Vile, David Crosby, Daryl Hall & John Oates, the Tallest Man On Earth and more … The 2000 solo debut of Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker, will see a special reissue on CD and vinyl on May 26 via Pax-Am … After 25 years, Loop returns June 22 with the release of the Array 1 EP on ATP … June 23 marks the release of the new album from the Orb, Moonbuilding 2703 AD, via Kompakt … Midnight Mission and Cedar Creek, the first two records by the Textones, will be reissued in expanded editions by Omnivore on May 26 … The Old Ceremony is set to release Sprinter on July 14 via Yep Roc … Rhino will celebrate the return of Faith No More with deluxe reissues of The Real Thing and Angel Dust on June 9 … A comprehensive boxed set containing the work of the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, I Like Rain: The Story Of The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, will be available August 11 from Fire … On June 2, Specialty will issue Directly From My Heart: The Best Of The Specialty & Vee-Jay Years, a three-disc boxed set featuring Little Richard’s recordings spanning 1956 to 1965.

—Emily Costantino

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In The News: High On Fire, Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Roger Waters, Frank Sinatra, Knack, Jonny Polonsky, Jason Isbell And More

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Luminiferous is the new High On Fire album, due out from eOne on June 23 … Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard have reunited to bring us Django And Jimmie on June 2 via Legacy … An expanded version of Carly Simon’s The Bedroom Tapes will be released by her own boutique label, C’EST Music, on April 20 … On July 24, Roger Waters’ 1992 record, Amused To Death, will be re-released on multiple formats by Columbia/Legacy … Grönland will issue The Conny Plank Session, featuring Duke Ellington & His Orchestra’s 1970 session at Germany’s Rhenus Studio, on July 10 … The September performance of Slash And Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators at The Roxy will be available as Live At The Roxy 9/25/14 on June 16 via Eagle Rock … A Little Bit Of Me: Live In L.A showcases the final performance on Melissa Etheridge’s This Is M.E. tour at the Orpheum Theater last year, and is set for a June 9 release on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and digital from Shout! Factory … In celebration of Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, Capitol/UMe will issue several career-spanning Ultimate Sinatra collections in various formats on April 21 … The Knack’s three final albums—Zoom, Normal As The Next Guy and Live From The Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun House—will get expanded reissues from Omnivore beginning May 19 … May 12 will see the release of Jonny Polonsky’s new album, The Other Side Of Midnight, which was mixed at David Lynch’s Asymmetrical Studios … Verve/Decca has announced the June 2 release of Melody Gardot’s new record, Currency Of Man … The fifth album from Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free, will be available from Southeastern on July 17 … High Risk is a new collaborative album between Dave Douglas and Shigeto, which will be released June 23 by Greenleaf … A four-disc set of previously unreleased live shows by Sly & The Family Stone, Live At The Fillmore East October 4th & 5 th 1968, is due out via Epic/Legacy on July 17 … Robin Gibb’s entire musical output at 19 years old will be chronicled on Saved By The Bell: The Collected Works Of Robin Gibb 1969-70, due out June 2 from Reprise … This July, Stereo Total will release a career-spanning best-of compilation, Yéyé Existentialiste … The Fire label has announced the May 19 release of Firestation Towers 1986-1989, a boxed set containing Close Lobsters’ two studio album as well as a singles collection … The lost 1972 LP by Vince Matthews And Jim Casey, The Kingston Springs Suite, will finally see the light of day on May 19 via Delmore.

—Emily Costantino

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It’s Record Store Day!

RSD

Quick Questions for the humans behind Record Store Day, co-founders and organizers Michael Bunnell, Carrie Colliton, Eric Levin and Michael Kurtz

First Record You Fell In Love With?
MB: The first 13th Floor Elevators album
MK: The Beatles’ seven-inch of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” in the fourth grade on my parents’ console.
CC: Every single thing in my babysitters’ collection, but that Elton John And Kiki Dee single stands out.
EL: The Story Of Star Wars

Last Record You Listened To From Beginning To End. On Purpose.
EL: I want to say it was D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, but it was Charli XCX’s Sucker.
MB: Bad Bad Not Good III
MK: St. Vincent St. Vincent
CC: Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Favorite Band Sirt
EL: I had on old over-sized white New Order shirt from their Brotherhood tour; it looked good on every girl who wore it. Currently, my wife’s got a Waylon Jennings shirt that I’m partial to.
MK: George Harrison Dark Horse shirt
CC: The oldest one in my drawer, TAD, and the newest one, a shirt that doesn’t even say the name of the band but came out of the Sun Kil Moon/Hopscotch Music Festival brouhaha last year. Good story, great shirt.

Late-Night Listening Session. Pizza Or Tacos?
MK: Tacos, but only if it’s corn.
EL: Is it a trick question? This is the most personal thing I’ve ever had to answer. It’s so existential. Where am I? What am I listening to? Is this very bad pizza versus really good tacos? The answer has to be pizza, right? Can I change my answer?
MB: Bourbon

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In The News: Sharon Van Etten, Karen Dalton, Rolling Stones, Billie Holiday And More

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Jagjaguwar will issue Sharon Van Etten’s new EP, I Don’t Want To Let You Down, on June 9. She’ll kick off a world tour later this month … Van Etten also makes an appearance on Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton, a compilation album of artists performing lost lyrics by the late Karen Dalton. It’s out via Tompkins Square on May 26 … Before This World is James Taylor’s first album of new songs in 13 years, due out June 16 via Concord … A rare recording of a 1971 club performance by the Rolling Stones will see the light of day after two decades on June 23, when Eagle Rock releases The Rolling Stones From The Vault: The Marquee—Live In 1971 on DVD and other formats … Barenaked Ladies have announced the June 2 release of new album Silverball on Vanguard. The band will support the LP with an extensive U.S. tour this summer … April 7 would have been the 100th birthday of Billie Holiday, and UMe commemorated the occasion with the digital release of 17 classic albums, including six that have been issued digitally for the first time … Loud & Proud has partnered with Blackbird Presents to release CD/DVD Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More For The Fans! later this year. It features the November 12, 2014, performance of a collection of artists honoring Lynyrd Skynyrd, including Trace Adkins, Alabama, Gregg Allman, Cheap Trick, Charlie Daniels and many more … Radius, the third album by Allen Stone, will be available from Capitol on May 26 … A new live album featuring Jeff Beck’s performances during last year’s tour with ZZ Top, Jeff Beck Live+, is due out on May 5 via Atco … Jim O’Rourke’s new album, Simple Songs (his first in 10 years) will be out via Drag City on May 19 … June 2 will see the release of Kinski’s 7 (Or 8) via Kill Rock Stars … Resonance will issue In The Beginning, a 26-track collection of rare and previously unreleased Wes Montgomery recordings, on May 12 … The Late Show: Live 1978 is a previously unreleased live album featuring Andrew Gold’s tour supporting All This And Heaven Too, and it will be available on May 12 from Omnivore … The new record from Jaga Jazzist, Starfire, will be released by Ninja Tune on June 2.

—Emily Costantino

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In The News: Mates Of State, Matt Pond PA, Iron & Wine & Ben Bridwell And More

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You’re Going To Make It is the name of Mates Of State’s new EP, due out from Barsuk on June 16. The duo just kicked off a full U.S. tour in support … Matt Pond PA’s new record, The State Of Gold, will be out June 30 via Doghouse. This month, the band will celebrate the 10th anniversary of album Several Arrows Later with a North American tour … Lojinx will issue Glean, the latest album from They Might Be Giants, on April 20 in celebration of the return of the band’s Dial-A-Song Service … This summer, Iron & Wine & Ben Bridwell will release a collaborative covers album, Sing Into My Mouth, via Sam Beam’s Black Cricket and Bridwell’s Brown Records … Sticky Fingers, the Rolling Stones’ 1971 classic, will be reissued by UMe in a variety of formats on May 26 … FFS is the collaboration of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, and they will release their self-titled debut via Domino on June 9 … Eagle Rock has announced the June 2 release of Jeff Beck’s Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scott’s – Sepcial Edition … On May 26, the Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds will make its Blu-ray audio debut via Capitol/UMe, complete with six bonus tracks … The latest record from Alpine, Yuck, is due out on June 16 via Votiv Music … The 10th anniversary of Black Mountain’s self-titled debut will be celebrated June 23 with a deluxe reissue from Jagjaguwar … Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller will release a new solo record, The Traveler, on ATO on May 12 … The Heart Is A Monster is the follow-up to Failure’s 1996 album Fantastic Planet, due out June 30 via INgrooves Music Group … UMe will issue an eight-disc boxed set featuring the work of Styx, Styx: The A&M Albums 1975-1984, on May 12 … June 23 will see the release of the new Meg Baird album, Don’t Weigh Down the Light, via Drag City … The Mothmen’s 1980 album Pay Attention! will be re-released by On-U Sound on June 1 … Vintage Piss is the new album from Sonny Vincent & Rocket From The Crypt, due out April 28 via Swami … Legacy will release Soundstage: Blues Summit In Chicago, 1974, featuring Muddy Waters And Friends, on DVD for the first time ever on April 21.

—Emily Costantino

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Live Review: La Colonie De VACANCES, Lille, France, Mar. 21, 2015

Live

The problem with orgies is that you’re always peering over your shoulder out of fear of an errant money shot.

Likewise with La Colonie de Vacances.

A collective of four French rock bands, La Colonie de Vacances (French for “holiday camp”) is a live collaboration in which the groups set up shop on separate stages, at the four points of the compass, with the audience smack in the middle. An inverted theater in the round, if you will.

Spectators mill about, wandering from one band to another. Often, they turn their backs to the stage closest to them to catch a glimpse of the other performers, who all play simultaneously. Such is the cross that swingers must bear: deciding where to focus their attention.

In fact, the playbill offers an enticing cast of characters:

Electric Electric: droney electronic rock trio from Strasbourg. Imagine Pitchblende stuck in a recurring synth loop.

Marvin: noisy punk-metal trio from Montpellier with a tasteful touch of keys.

Papier Tigre: exquisite post-harDCore trio from Nantes. Think Tortoise recording for Dischord.

Pneu: a drum-and-guitar spazzcore duo from Tours who marries the chaotic energy of Melt Banana with the ferocity and precision of Bad Brains.

That’s 11 musicians in total. A titillating ménage à onze. Sure, the songs are mostly linear, which allows all players to contribute with minimal complications. But it’s to the great credit of all four bands that this quadrophonic experiment doesn’t devolve into a murk of skronk nor restrict itself to a dull recitation of pre-fab banality.

And like any good orgy, there are moments of tenderness, fits of aggression, and very little chit-chat. Each band takes turns playing some of its own tunes unaccompanied (highlights include Pneu’s “Batatanana” and Marvin’s “Discudance”), allowing the other three to take a blow before bringing in the full orchestra for a rousing collective outro. The performance is tight and mathy, yet sufficiently artsy to hold the audience’s interest. The songs, most of them all-instrumental, range from euphoric trance to hard driving new wave to spastic hardcore.

With the encore, all lights are killed save for a single bulb hanging some 30 feet above the crowd. It sways violently, casting ominous shadows across the room. The effect is pleasantly nauseating.

Again, just like your finer orgies.

–Eric Bensel

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