Sound City ★★★★

Sound City is an inspiring, funny, nostalgic, fascinating and - at times - beautiful tribute to the Van Nuys studio that recorded some of the most pivotal and influential rock music that I grew up listening to.

Every nook and cranny of this film exudes the passion of a filmmaker who truly understands and loves music along with the process of capturing its purity. And what better a filmmaker to have made this film than someone who possibly owes his career to the studio. Dave Grohl is that someone, and he is - for lack of a better explanation - fucking amazing in this film, not as a narrator, but as another persona intimately intertwined with the studio's history.

The film does a wonderful job of balancing the fascinating technical aspects of studio recording - from the Neve soundboard (including a hilarious short interview session with the engineer himself) to the unique attributes of the studio space itself - with the human element that made the studio truly what it was.

From the origins of the studio and its quirky nature, through the late 80s digital revolution/decline and revival through the grunge era, the documentary's narrative is told through a blend of archival footage, still photographs (many made into pass-through 2.5D) and interviews with some key characters in the studio's history. These interviews are what really make this film - familiar faces and big names giving honest and humble recountings, sharing their memories and feelings about making music together. It's hard not to feel longing, excitement and even regret as the personalities spill their memories, all without needing any previous knowledge of the studio or attachment to the people who built it. And that's a testament to how engaging these interviews are.

This film isn't about Sound City, the recording facility. It's about Sound City, a beating heart in the body of rock and roll. It becomes apparent through the story of Sound City that what began as a studio space really became a great galvanizer for an approach to harnessing sound - a way of creating music and bottling its energy that isn't intrinsically bound to a location built with bricks and wires.

One of the most compelling aspects for me personally was being presented with two equally valid perspectives of the analog/digital recording debate. As a novice bedroom musician without access to expensive analog gear (which Sound City is essentially built around), I truly respected Grohl's unifying perspective that music isn't about the gear. And even though (minor spoiler) he took it upon himself to give Sound City's original soundboard a new home, Grohl is a musician that shares my personal belief that it's not about your gear - it's the human element and the passion you put into it that makes music great, however it's recorded.

Report this review

Scott liked this review