Sound City

I like Dave Grohl. But I did not know I really liked him until I saw (a) this clip (thx, JH!)

and (b) this documentary, Sound City. Grohl, member of every rock band basically, penned the story for the movie and directed it, adding yet another notch to his artistic toolbelt. This guy is talented. It wasn’t a brilliantly-shot piece of art or anything, but it was certainly great and heartfelt. And of all things, it was about a soundboard.

Really! A soundboard. Specifically, the Neve formerly located in Sound City in Los Angeles, California, where all of these brilliant albums were recorded. The place was a dump but the board was a masterpiece, invented by Rupert Neve back in the day and worth more than I’d really care to think about. And it magically, scientifically engineered the sounds of all those albums we’ve come to love. Specifically, the crisp, clear, prominent drums, despite the Sound City studio being what looks like a terrible room for percussion. So it goes.

This documentary pulled in all sorts of big names — Stevie Nicks, Rich Springfield, Josh Homme, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Lars Ulrich, and Rick Rubin, to name a few — extolling the good times had in the studio and the precious clarity and perfection of the Neve. It also went a bit behind-the-scenes, interviewing the women and men who worked there and befriended everyone big-time without ever becoming famous themselves. Those producers and secretaries kept the place going even as it was falling apart.

Towards the end of the film, we learn that Grohl himself was [spoiler alert] able to fork over the cash to save the board after the studio itself, already sort of a dump, wasn’t able to stay open. The movie lost me a bit here, because it mentioned the dire financial circumstances and the subsequent burden on those behind-the-scenes people, but never really filled us in on what became of them. (I guess that’s what the internet is for?) Anyway, the good news is that, upon Grohl’s purchase, the board went to his loving home studio, and all those aforementioned people went to work honoring it the bets way they knew how: By writing and recording new songs. My favorite one to come out of these sessions (and onto a forthcoming album connected to the documentary) is “Cut Me Some Slack,” which you may have heard on SNL several weeks ago. Yes, that is Nirvana with Sir Paul at the helm. Trippy, no?

The cynic in me wants to find fault with Grohl’s pure, genuine devotion to this thing (and his cheesy voice-overs), but it’s so difficult! The movie might come across as saccharine, overly-kind, maybe even a little obsessive, but I promise you it isn’t. It’s truly sweet, and even sweeter that a musician so grounded in great music and so talented over the years was able to tell a story that clearly meant the world to him. Not bad for a first documentary, homes.
saccharine but mostly sweet.

Oh, and Rick Springfield’s dog was cuter than he was.