Movie Review: Sound City
Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 18, 2013
Directed by: Dave Grohl
Genre: Documentary and music
Stars: 4 out of 5
The film "Sound City" is a documentary on the Sound City Studios located in Van Nuys, California. The documentary was written by Mark Monroe and directed by Dave Grohl. It is understood that Grohl, as part of Nirvana, recorded the album "Nevermind" at the studios and was inspired to make a documentary about it.
The central plot of "Sound City" is not complicated. It centers on Sound City Studio, a rock 'n' roll studio that remained secret for many years. The studio was located in the San Fernando Valley, an area known for its dilapidated warehouses. The studio housed a unique console that was used by many of the artists that passed through it to become legends in their own rights. Some of the artists and bands associated with the Sound City Studio included Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Nirvana, and Metallica. The artists that appear in the film do so as themselves.
"Sound City" features several performances and interviews from some of the best artists from the studio. It should be noted that the film does not just dwell on these performances and interviews; it also celebrates the often forgotten human element side of music. That Grohl managed to get together some of these iconic artists to record a new album together was in itself remarkable. That they managed to do this using the studio's old but legendary analogue console was virtually beyond expectations.
This documentary can be viewed as a love letter from Grohl to the studio that helped him to record "Nevermind" back in 1991. At the beginning of the documentary, the focus is solely on the custom-made Neve analog console-it is understood that the director has since purchased this console. This suggests that the first part of the movie is a historical portrayal of the ramshackle studio that gave birth to numerous legendary hits. In the last half of the movie, the focus shifts to the importance of collaboration in music production. According to the documentary, it is this collaborative nature in music that gives rise to new tracks.
The movie will be greatly welcomed by many people who wish to have a peak at the behind-the-scenes making of music. It is always an inspiring thing for music lovers and upcoming musicians to know how those who have made it in the industry did it. The writer of the film, Monroe, gives a hint into this when he says that those who want to succeed as musicians should know that the secret formula is collaboration with other likeminded artists. Indeed, this school of thought can be applied to other industries apart from music; getting together and pooling resources always seems to yield great results.
Although many great artists emerged from the derelict studio, this does not mean that it is easy to make music. Those who aspire to make music should know that it takes a lot of hard work. For those who grew up in the beginning of the rock era, the mystique of a recording studio cannot be overestimated. An amateur musician can get busy working after investing in a few pieces of home music equipment, but that rarely leads to great music. To be recognized, an artist had to invest in a serious professional studio. During these early days, things were glorious enough and it was possible to make money from rock, but artists still had to pay for recording, production, engineering, and talent. It is against this backdrop that the achievements of Sound City studio become so overwhelming.
The documentary offers an interesting and nostalgic look back in time, back at some of the musicians who made the studio great. There is lots of information about the studio, and rock lovers will love it, but the film also offers a good look into the nature of the people who worked in it.
Despite the emergence of the digital age, there are people who still favor the analogue equipment, and Grohl is clearly one of them. It is good, though, that the documentary recognizes the importance of digital machines, and it also features digital music enthusiasts such as Trent Reznor. The movie should be lauded for offering a two-sided view of the coin without losing its focus-the production of great rock n' roll music by collaborating musicians from Sound City Studio. The only negative thing that can be said about the movie is its relatively poor transition between different scenes, but that is not uncommon in documentaries. Grohl has worked or appeared in other films, including "Is It Fall Yet?," "The Muppets," and "Back and Forth."