Movie Review: Sound City – Brandon Bray

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Music is the heartbeat of who we are. Whether you enjoy music or not, life happens at a rhythm. A very specific rhythm depending on who you are, as we all march to the beat of our own drummer, so to speak. I feel that there are people who have tapped into that pulse we live our lives to and are exploring it further than the lay person would ever endeavor to do. These are the people who turn it up and soak it in and find hidden meaning stuffed between the notes and melodies. These people are more commonly known as music snobs, elitists, pretentious know it alls etc. I think I fall into this crowd, but I also realize that my opinion is really of no consequence in the grand scheme of things.  If my opinion DID matter, then Justin Bieber wouldn’t exist and Beyonce would have sang the National Anthem live. So you may be asking yourself, “what does this matter in regards to Sound City?”  Well, what I’m trying to say is, Sound City is a flawlessly executed love letter to a studio that had its hands in just about every decade in music that’s mattered and the music lover in me is celebrating with overt glee.

Dave Grohl has a passion for all things music. While his discography has some blips and glitches here and there, he has given us two decades of uncompromising rock and roll. First with Nirvana, then with the Foo Fighters, followed by a nice solo outing by the name of Probot, and then some small stints with my personal favorites Queens Of The Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. He of course has appeared on some other outings but these are his most notable contributions to the music world as we know it. Not a bad resume if you ask me and now he has decided to jump feet first into the documentary realm and again, shows he has a great deal of talent here too. I imagine most of the ability shown here is due to his passion for the material.

Sound City kicks off with a who’s who list of musicians and bands that have written and recorded some of their best albums in hallowed halls of Sound City Studios. I personally had no idea this dingy, trash bag of a studio had put out some of the most influential music of the past thirty years. Albums include: Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush, Elton John’s Caribou, Fleetwood Mac’s S/T and Rumors, Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedos, Hard Promises, Southern Accents and Wild Flowers, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Queens of the Stone Age’s S/T, Rated R, and Lullabies to Paralyze, Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth and The Slip, and the list literally goes on and on. Its absolutely startling to hear about all the bands that have recorded there and that some have turned out some of their best material there. I love the time spent on the bands and their recordings, how they recorded them and how the studio shouldn’t have worked and why it ultimately did work. This is where the documentary works perfectly.

Sound-CityIn the middle of all the reminiscing for the first half of the film there is a 15 minute period where “The Neve Console” is introduced and what follows is a lot of studio/recording jargon which is never fully explained. I have in fact been in a recording studio and helped record some albums so I understood the jargon and what the point of it was but most of this would have been completely lost on the lay person. I will say that most of the things discussed in this 15 minute window are beginner level at best but if you haven’t done these things before you may be a bit lost. That small nitpicky thing aside this movie is definitely for everyone and begs multiple viewings, for sheer awesomeness of course.

Sound City isn’t just about a studio and a recording console. It’s also about the record industry and how things changed over the course of the studios time in the industry. Namely moving from Analogue to Digital recording techniques. Sound City was and always remained a 100% analogue recording studio. Which means you record straight to tape as opposed to recording to a hard drive. There’s a lot more to it than that but I don’t want to write three hundred words on things that could and most likely would bore most into a coma. So, just know that there is an extended section in the film dedicated to the state of the recording industry and the advances that would eventually be made to move the entire industry to a digital based world.

I spoke briefly about the Neve console above and coincidentally this Neve console becomes the heart and soul of the movie and the studio. You are introduced to the board with some much deserved love and then it’s kind of put away for a while. The history of Sound City continues and then all the sudden Dave Grohl buys this one of a kind monstrosity and parks it in his Northridge, California studio, Studio 606. All this leads to, in what my mind is the best possible climax, the inevitable group recording session with some of Grohl’s friends and some of the the best in the business on the legendary board. These songs would then become what would end up on the soundtrack for the film.

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The recording sessions are truly incredible, featuring performances from Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Jim Keltner, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Lee Ving and I saved the legend for last, Paul McCartney. There are quite a few sessions that didn’t make the film and of course I would have loved to have seen those sessions unfold but we probably would have been there all night (I would have been fine with this). It would have been like Tom Petty’s four hour Running On A Dream documentary, which if you are a music fan and haven’t seen that, you don’t know what you are missing. Alas, the film had to end at some point and the magic eventually had to run out.

In the end, you are left with a great desire to listen to everything you own by anyone you saw in the film. Sit down and reminisce and really soak in all the beauty that was captured in one of the most sacred places in recording history. You will leave with a new appreciation for all things rock and how much it means to those it speaks to. It’s films like this that make being a music fan so special. Almost as if it were created just for you.

 I give it 5 Fresh Pots out of 5

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By Brandon Bray


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