Sound City – Film Review

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As Headfunk’s resident geek of both Music and Film, I consider it a prerogative, where possible, to find and bring you little morsels that intersect on the venn diagram as and when i can. Nowhere is this currently more appropriate than in acclaimed documentary “Sound City”.

‘Sound City’ begins it’s narrative in the days of yore when rock bands possessed hair that was frankly intimidating, and the unrelenting pace chronicles a meticulously researched path following more than 50 years of rock and roll heritage. It tells the story of legendary recording studio “Sound City”, an aesthetically unremarkable building tucked away in an idle corner of California that produced more hit albums than could be considered either possible, or sensibly feasible. It was home to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield, Santana, Johnny Cash, The Pixies, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and so many more.

What may surprise you about this wonderfully crafted piece is it’s unconventional director. This is the labour of love for Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, and somewhat surprisingly, he proves incredibly adept at the cinematic form. He knows how to weave a compelling narrative in a way many directors, with decades of experience and scores of awards under their belts would struggle to. Much of this is due to Grohl’s avuncular personality as the storyteller. He’s an engaging, witty, charismatic and warm presence. For years now he’s been referred to as the nicest man in rock, and seeing him here, you could easily find yourself believing it. That’s not to say he’s alone in this quest, Like most first-time directors, He aided himself along by bringing some able-bodied assistance to the project. Most notably in this instance, the assistance comes from the award-winning editor Paul Crowder, most notably acclaimed for his work on skateboarding doc “Dogtown & Z-Boys”.

While most of the film focuses on the analog equipment, and legendary setup of the studio, studio luddites like myself may fear not. This is not a gear-nerds film. Any illusion it may be such is squashed near the start in an awkwardly funny scene where Rupert Neave, creator of the legendary board inundates Grohl with facts and figures about the calibrations of the board. Grohl to his credit follows as best as he can, but looks like a rabbit in the headlights of a Juggernaut as subtitles beneath self-mockingly point to the fact he never actually finished high school before he left to begin touring as a drummer for his first band.

The latter third of the film follows Grohl’s quest to reunite some of the legendary acts that once played on this system. It’s here that the film takes a shift in it’s dynamic, but it remains compelling and interesting nonetheless.

Towards the end of the film, Grohl talks about what he finds lacking alot of contemporary music is “…The Human Element.”. It’s an impressive feat that in this, his directorial debut, he finds it so engagingly, and engrossingly. I guarantee it will remind you of why you fell in love with music

‘Sound City’ is now finally available on DVD in the UK, and can be purchased digitally through Itunes and VHX.

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