Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sound City

Wow......just wow. What an awesome, well-made film. It gave me chills all over and had me gasping for air within the first ten minutes of watching! For those who don't already know, Dave Grohl made a documentary movie about the now-defunct 'legendary' studio in L.A. known as Sound City. It sure didn't look good from the early archival footage, but it damn sure sounded good. Apparently the out-of-this-world acoustics was a phenomena that couldn't be explained. The place changed his life; he and Nirvana recorded Nevermind there. And the same could be said for many of the musicians, producers, and engineers who worked there. A couple of my personal favorite records were done there: Damn The Torpedoes, Hard Promises, Southern Accents, Wildflowers, After The Gold Rush, Rumors (mixed, not recorded), Johnny Cash's Unchained, hell even With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails. Speaking of Rumors, it pretty much blew my mind to know that Sound City was singlehandedly responsible for bringing Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks together with Fleetwood Mac during the early '70s. Amazing, ain't it? Almost everyone who had a part to play were interviewed for the film. I like it that we see and hear these people narrate, rather than have a neutral voice-over do it. The story of Sound City is told chronologically, and the scenes edited like a dynamic rock & roll record with many musical ups and downs. Ample screen time is given to those important albums recorded there. It wasn't all smooth sailing though. In the '80s, digital changed the recording landscape, and it affected business at the studio, but that didn't unnerve the people who still believed in putting music to analog and tape.

The custom-built Neve mixing console is as much a character and player in this film as everyone else -- those classic records wouldn't be what they are today if it weren't for this monster. Drums sounded sick because of it. Damn The Torpedoes, baby. Neve becomes the film's 'main focus' from the third quarter onwards after the studio shut its doors forever, and Grohl purchases and installs it in his own studio. It may be a weird shift in angle and mood for some viewers as the historical portion is now 'out of the way', but I think it's a cool shift. This is where the fun's just getting started. Dave brings back some of the Sound City players to record with him and the Foo Fighters; Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Lee Ving, Jim Keltner, and a first time collaboration between him, Trent Reznor and Josh Homme. Butch Vig is back at the board, handling production duties (soundtrack comes out next month). The best is saved for the last, as Sir Paul is invited to record with the remaining members of Nirvana. You not only get a kick out of watching these songs being recorded live, but also from watching all the musicians interact with one another in between takes.....that all-important creative process that makes shit happens. Because at the end of the day, it's the people coming together to create the magic of music, of which is a testament to Sound City's longevity. This film tells young musicians that sometimes relying too much on technology isn't the best thing in the world, and it teaches them a thing or two about doing it the old fashioned way. It's a love letter to Rock & Roll. It's a celebration of life!