Legendary Rocker Dave Grohl Breaks Through the Wall of ‘Sound’
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 7:16 AM
If you think that the new documentary Sound City, directed by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and screened January 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival, is going to contain new insight into his time as a drummer with Nirvana and his relationship with Kurt Cobain you’re going to be disappointed. But this look into recording rock music, including the legendary 1991 album “Nevermind,” is surprisingly entertaining and even fascinating.
Grohl has assembled an assortment of diverse music legends for interviews throughout the movie, including Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield and Barry Manilow. All these artists and more, including Fleetwood Mac, have recorded at the now defunct Sound City Studios, a run down, hole-in-the-wall recording studio in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles that contained a unique soundboard, the Neve console, in the age before digital recordings. The fact that Grohl can make a movie about a subject such as analog recording is both surprising and revealing.
Appealing mostly to rock fans, the movie sometimes ventures so far into industry jargon and technicalities that moviegoer’s eyes might glaze over. However, the saving grace is the interviews, along with footage of Paul McCartney and the late Johnny Cash recording tracks alongside Grohl. And of course there is the sound. The quality of the music makes a strong case for the superiority of studio musicians recording live to tape rather than today’s digital recordings of manipulated instrument sounds and vocals.
However Grohl is too smart to simply bash newer technology. He even asserts its usefulness at times while maintaining that music is not supposed to be digitally perfect. Included in the movie are recollections from the colorful staff and owners that kept Sound City Studios running from the late 1960s up until 2011.
Grohl comes across as a smart lover of music who holds no grudges and refuses to live in the past. He is releasing an album titled “Sound City: Real to Reel” with many of the artists singing new tracks recorded on the infamous soundboard in March. Sound City is not so much as a bittersweet tribute to the past as an optimistic view into what rock music can still be.
In theatres now
Available on DVD and Blue-ray March 8
Mark Bizzell is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.