Film Review: Sound City

by Emily Anderson on February 1, 2013

Dave Grohl, director of the new documentary Sound City.

Dave Grohl, director of the new documentary Sound City.

Directed By: David Grohl

Written By: Mark Monroe

Starring: Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Mick Fleetwood, and a cast of musical legends

The movie ‘Sound City’ started as a movie about a location but evolved into the raw internal disclosure of the emotional soul of a musician and the music industry. It allows a peek into the behind the scenes non-glamorous side of an album recording, opening insight to the controversy of analog verses digital methods.

It does this by giving a unique perspective by providing an outlet for legendary musicians, engineers, and producers to speak out on their ideas, frustrations, and choices of recording tools through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and further disclosing how those choices played a significant role in developing music history and fulfilling an ever demanding need for creative innovation.

The highlight of the discussion was the infamous Neve Sound Board. A hand crafted gift with many-many fine tuning options to capture the sweetness, depth, and perception of each element of an instrument. Sound City was a unique recording studio, not only because of the Neve sound board but the physical spacial qualities of the room. This retired box factory had several sweet spots that picked-up previous unheard sounds from an instrument. As a musician, there was a love or hate relationship with the studio. There was no forgiveness on mistakes, as with the digital tool options – fake it and fix it later. When recording here, everyone must have talent, chemistry, and timing that only then delivers the unmatched awed musical magic. This can intensify the collaboration frustrations, as now enters the circus leader -music producer. As Dave Carlock told me in a brief chat, “the role of a producer is to know when the cake is done baking and push until its there.”  There were a few stories of a music producer pushing the musician’s limits, even if it takes throwing a bottle to the head to get a scream at the right time or knowing when the track is done.

When Sound City closed its doors, David Grohl refused to let the beauty of analog recording and the Neve board be buried in a museum to collect dust. He allowed the Neve sound board to became an intricate part of his new recording studio – ‘606.’ At this point, the film takes a further in-depth look into the soul of a musician with momentary glimpses of established artists collaborating with their inspirational idols. Giving view of the visual and audible indescribable magical, harmonic connection between each musician and instrument. At one moment Grohl questions ‘why can’t it always be this easy’ as Paul McCartney replies ‘it is.’ I guess that is a normal response from a legendary genius.

This is no ordinary film that makes you feel good; its one that makes you feel. It is a love story of a musician and the romantic affair with the humbling sounds of the soul.

Special thanks to music producer Dave Carlock of “27 records”, my temporary movie seat mate for cleaning up my mental drool after the movie and answering a plethora of questions on the music recording industry, with many stories of his time at Sound City, recording with Ranside and tours with David Grohl.

The film is doing limited screenings throughout the country, but if you miss a screening, you can buy a download of the movie from the official website.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brittany February 18, 2013 at 2:48 am

This couldnt be more perfect. I cant wait to see it – and hear that soundtrack next month!


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