Film Review: Sound City

If you listen to rock music, then likely there’s at least one album in your collection that was recorded at Sound City Studio. Neil Young, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Nirvana, Metallica — hell, even Josh Groban has recorded at the legendary and now non-existent recording studio that, by all accounts, was a bit of a dive. But it produced hit albums. A lot of them. Unfortunately, the recording studio closed in 2011 after more than 40 years in business. The closure spurred Dave Grohl into making a documentary, aptly titled Sound City.

Sound City Studios was built in an old Vox amplifier factory. As such, the building wasn’t intended to have good acoustics or designed for recording. But somehow, it was perfect for doing just that. What helped was when the studio bought and installed a Neve console, a state-of-the-art recording console with more knobs, buttons and sliders than you could ever imagine. The console allowed for very fine control of whatever was being recorded.

Did you know that Dave Grohl was in Nirvana? He’ll make sure you remember throughout Sound City. While it is Grohl’s first attempt at directing, he does a decent job. The film uses all sorts of bells and whistles for cuts and edits to keep it light. Sometimes too light: such as when it pokes gentle fun at the technical jargon that console’s designer Rupert Neve shares; c’mon, it probably was a highlight for him to be interviewed in a documentary about his invention. Occasionally it does come off a bit “Look at me and my rock star friends.” But it’s easy enough to get over and passed.

Unfortunately, the documentary doesn’t go as deep as it could and the final portion of the film — which is a documentary of Grohl and friends recording their tribute to Sound City Studios album with the console at Grohl’s 606 Studios — could have been a film in and of itself. That said, Sound City is an interesting and informative documentary that will appeal to rock fans.

Corinne

In a previous life, Corinne ran a music website. After going strong for a decade, the site went on a hiatus. Consider her the antiTastemaker.