August 25, 2013

Sound City

Dave Grohl, 2013

Grohl directs this documentary about a legendary recording studio that was home to 100 gold and platinum records. Legendary artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield, Nirvana all recorded their work there. The grungy ambiance, laid-back owners and analog recording equipment was inviting to Rock purists who wanted to make records without executives breathing down their neck.

The film has a spectacular opening sequence, with a recording studio slowly coming alive. Lights being flipped on one by one. Grohl picks up an acoustic guitar and starts strumming. His hand elevates to strum another chord and a perfectly synchronized electric guitar chord kicks in and in comes the hard rock, punching the gas. It's a well organized film that thoroughly details the creation of Sound City. The conversion to a studio from a Vox amplifier factory. The early years and foundational recordings. The acquisition of the Neve console that would prove to be a draw for musicians who wanted to be hands on with their analog recordings. The changing 80's, and the early digital age. The financial struggles. Nirvana coming to the studio to record Nevermind, and changing not only the music world but also revitalizing Sound City. The inevitable sweep of technology that put Protools in the hands of anyone who wanted to make a record.

Sweat stains line the Sound City walls, placed in the middle of an unassuming industrial park in Van Nuys. Echoes of past heroes and past riffs resonate through the studio. There is an obvious energy to the building. The musicians themselves say the studio shouldn't sound so good. The layout didn't make any sense. It should sound horrible for drummers, but it didn't. The mythical status of Sound City could be compared to CBGB. The film is loaded with old footage, great music, gritty camera filters, and good story. Grohl is a sentimental person. He appreciates where he came from and who got him there. He credits Sound City with putting Nirvana on the map. Grohl purchasing the Neve console is ensuring that the equipment is in good hands, and is going to get some use. The final portion of the film is a bit self-indulgent but still pays a nice tribute and is a nice send-off. A thank you note to Sound City.

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