Sound City review: a messy, nostalgic wander through rock'n'roll history

Sound City
    
Director: Dave Grohl
Cert: 18
Genre: Documentary
Starring: Krist Novoselic Neil Young Tom Petty Stevie Nicks Paul McCartney Trent Reznor Rick Springfield
Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins

In 2007, Erika Eiffel, an object-sexual advocate, married the Eiffel Tower. Madame Eiffel has absolutely nothing to do with rock-doc Sound City , but she would surely appreciate the objectiphilia lurking at the heart of the film.

The Neve 8028 is a one-of-a- kind analogue mix console found in the tatty LA recording studio of the title. This custom-made piece of hardware has enticed and enthralled musicians – particularly drummers – for decades. Here, responding to a distress call from stickman turned frontman turned film-maker Dave Grohl, they assemble to pay tribute as the old place closes down.

Grohl's good natured, loose-limbed documentary provides a potted history of the dingy sound studio that birthed Nirvana's Nevermind, as well as albums for Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Ronnie James Dio, Johnny Cash, Foreigner, Metallica, and Guns N' Roses. He nods and smiles as he meets Rupert Neve, the console's British inventor; subtitles reveal Grohl's self-deprecating internal monologue: "This guy knows I didn't finish high school."

Grohl and Trent Reznor, now elder statesmen, chime on the closing of the studio and the contemporary digital age with its Autotune this and Pro Tools that.


"Like many things," laments Josh Homme. "There's no book store, there's no record stores and there's no Sound City." Other elder statesmen – Tom Petty, Neil Young, Mick Fleetwood, Barry Manilow – reminisce about Sound City's grot and shag-carpeted walls.

Despite Paul Crowder's (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants) reliable cuts and writing from Mark Monroe (The Cove, The Summit), one couldn't claim it was the most focused of rock chronicles. An overextended final section detailing the coming together of the Sound City Players (Grohl's sister musical act with Stevie Nicks, Reznor, Paul McCartney et al) often makes one think of the dread phrase "Here's a song from the new album".

No matter. There’s something delightful about the way Grohl treads on all the increasingly discrete genre barriers by mashing Foo Fighters up with Nicks, McCartney and Rick Springfield. There’s something magical in watching Manilow and Mastadon doffing their caps at the same institution. There’s something rock about the film’s messy, nostalgic imperfection.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic