You may know him as the drummer from Nirvana, or the founder and lead singer of the Foo Fighters, but what you may not know is Dave Grohl is equally comfortable behind the lens in the director’s chair. In his debut directorial role, Grohl delivers the endearing documentary film, Sound City.
We are often used to the film star wanting to be a rock star, but seldom does it go the other way. Yes, Rob Zombie has had success in recent years with his Horror flicks, but this isn't your average crossover as Grohl plays to his strengths, producing and directing one of the most intriguing music-themed documentaries in recent times. It also doesn’t hurt to have a Rolodex that includes John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Rubin, Rick Springfield, Corey Taylor, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney.
The documentary itself is told beautifully, by the people who worked at the once great Sound City Studios and the musicians who recorded there. Paul Crowder (also editor of Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days A Week) expertly compiles this intermingling tale that talks about the rise and fall of a highly sort after recording studio as the industry made the transition from tape-based recording methods to digital-based recording systems.
It is difficult to not get carried away with the emotion shown by Grohl and his peers. You will laugh, you will empathise, but you will never look for the remote as the narrative is captivating.
On cursory examination, Sound City is aimed squarely at music lovers, but while it examines the effect that technology has had on the music industry, specifically from a recording standpoint, it speaks to a much larger debate regarding the effect technology has on society and culture. It is this unique approach that will undoubtedly generate interest by music lovers and documentary film buffs alike.
The filming of the documentary is immaculate and for a directorial debut, Grohl will have no detractors.
If you believe a quality soundtrack is of considerable importance, you won’t be disappointed. This is certainly not a film that you will want to watch with only your television speakers. Yes, I believe a film’s sound is fifty percent of the experience and while the film contains samples of some of the most recognisable recordings in history, it also features new and engaging compositions that were also released as a soundtrack album.
Perhaps the only disappointment is the final thirty minutes of the film where the documentary shifts focus to the recording of the soundtrack. It almost feels as though this should have been bonus content, and I can’t help but wonder if it couldn’t have been dispersed more thoroughly throughout the documentary. That said, it is utterly fascinating to see musicians like Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, and Paul McCartney share the studio with the Foo Fighters in a jazz-like jam session.
Overall there isn't a dull moment to be seen here. Even if you’re not a music fan it is an intriguing and entertaining look at a side of the industry that is less star-studded and glamorous, but nevertheless essential.
Sound City is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and for rental and purchase on iTunes.