Sound City Reviews

  • May 22, 2019

    Sound Check There's people that prefer the drafting board to computers, prefer a typewriter to word-processing software, prefer film to digital cameras, etc. The list is extensive and the people on it are usually dismissed and eventually forgotten as technology moves forward. CGI creates better special effects; digital images can be deleted without wasting film; and Computer Aided Drafting and Manufacturing creates better, more accurate products. However, the case for analog over digital methods in music continues to be made. Musicologist Dave Grohl brings this debate to the court of public opinion in "Sound City." Called to the witness stand is a variety of fellow artists from the 60's to present which includes Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Barry Manilow, Rick Springfield, et al. All these participants not only testify to their in experience with the analog studio, but also the influences and differences of digital over analog methods on music culture. It's made apparent early on that this documentary is more than just a "day in the life" of musicians and how they created the art we enjoy as Dave later affirms: "It all started with this idea that I wanted to tell the story of the board. The conversation became something much bigger. Like . . . in this age of technology, where you simulate or manipulate anything, how do we retain that human element . . .? How do we keep music to sound like people? That feeling that I got when I was young, Oh, I could that too." And so the case is made that it's the analog imperfections that retains the human quality much like hand-made furniture as compared to the mass produced. But the film is not a total dis on technology. It's stated quite clearly that it was the "Neve" sound board that much homage is paid to including an interview with sound engineer Rupert Neve himself. For although this was the pinnacle of technology, it was still analog technology. As the film's humble narrator/producer conducts a multi leveled, pro/con journey spanning many decades of music, as digital methods continued to penetrate the music culture. In all these examples there are those who reject it, those who embrace it, and those who find a middle ground for old and new technologies to coexist in their vocation. Some prefer a set of drums and others use an electronic drum machine. Eventually, Sound City couldn't compete with the digital world where artists steadily became more like computer music "file makers" rather than instrument trained musicians. Through many examples we are shown that in music, in spite of the advances in recording and producing technology, many musicians can preserve the "human" quality with state of the art "analog" technologies. Dave never forgot where he came from. This was the impetus for making this film and the reason for preserving the Neve board which now resides in his private studio. He waxes some heavy philosophy but never comes off preachy which could easily turn any movie into a "vanity project." In fact he comes off very altruistic with his many homages to the staff and studio where he cut his first album with Nirvana.

    Sound Check There's people that prefer the drafting board to computers, prefer a typewriter to word-processing software, prefer film to digital cameras, etc. The list is extensive and the people on it are usually dismissed and eventually forgotten as technology moves forward. CGI creates better special effects; digital images can be deleted without wasting film; and Computer Aided Drafting and Manufacturing creates better, more accurate products. However, the case for analog over digital methods in music continues to be made. Musicologist Dave Grohl brings this debate to the court of public opinion in "Sound City." Called to the witness stand is a variety of fellow artists from the 60's to present which includes Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Barry Manilow, Rick Springfield, et al. All these participants not only testify to their in experience with the analog studio, but also the influences and differences of digital over analog methods on music culture. It's made apparent early on that this documentary is more than just a "day in the life" of musicians and how they created the art we enjoy as Dave later affirms: "It all started with this idea that I wanted to tell the story of the board. The conversation became something much bigger. Like . . . in this age of technology, where you simulate or manipulate anything, how do we retain that human element . . .? How do we keep music to sound like people? That feeling that I got when I was young, Oh, I could that too." And so the case is made that it's the analog imperfections that retains the human quality much like hand-made furniture as compared to the mass produced. But the film is not a total dis on technology. It's stated quite clearly that it was the "Neve" sound board that much homage is paid to including an interview with sound engineer Rupert Neve himself. For although this was the pinnacle of technology, it was still analog technology. As the film's humble narrator/producer conducts a multi leveled, pro/con journey spanning many decades of music, as digital methods continued to penetrate the music culture. In all these examples there are those who reject it, those who embrace it, and those who find a middle ground for old and new technologies to coexist in their vocation. Some prefer a set of drums and others use an electronic drum machine. Eventually, Sound City couldn't compete with the digital world where artists steadily became more like computer music "file makers" rather than instrument trained musicians. Through many examples we are shown that in music, in spite of the advances in recording and producing technology, many musicians can preserve the "human" quality with state of the art "analog" technologies. Dave never forgot where he came from. This was the impetus for making this film and the reason for preserving the Neve board which now resides in his private studio. He waxes some heavy philosophy but never comes off preachy which could easily turn any movie into a "vanity project." In fact he comes off very altruistic with his many homages to the staff and studio where he cut his first album with Nirvana.

  • Apr 30, 2018

    Such a cool documentary. I'm a sucker for these type of docs or movies on music and just to see all this amazing rock history was awe inspiring.

    Such a cool documentary. I'm a sucker for these type of docs or movies on music and just to see all this amazing rock history was awe inspiring.

  • Dec 11, 2017

    An entertaining, sometimes moving look a slice of rock & roll history. And Dave Grohl. Lots of Dave Grohl.

    An entertaining, sometimes moving look a slice of rock & roll history. And Dave Grohl. Lots of Dave Grohl.

  • Jan 17, 2017

    The first time I saw this documentary, I was thrilled. I thought it did an exceptional job speaking the messages it needed to convey, namely the closing of Sound City, the stories of the records and the people involved, and digital technology's takeover. At the time it seemed the documentary captured the feeling of being in the studio with the people making what would become the soundtrack to this movie fairly well, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Sound City as it was told. However, for me, this documentary movie did not age as well as I hoped. After not watching it for a long time and then coming back to it, the documentary, while still technically superb and appearing historically accurate, came across to me as, in some parts, showing some older artists that are preaching cynical opinions about the current music coming out today. These opinions wouldn't be so problematic if they didn't show up as often as they do, but it gets distracting, especially if someone like myself isn't fully on board with the opinions which are shared. In addition to the opinions themselves, the people in the movie sometimes back up their points of view and the general opinion of the documentary in ways that either mean very little or are unclear. A common theme in the movie is that an artist must "play from their heart" and "be real" to be any good. This is one such example of something that on the surface sounds like it has the same universal meaning to everyone, but after digging a little deeper does not really have any set definition. To clarity, one person could theoretically define being "real" as making or playing what sounds good to them, whether or not sounding good contradicts the rest of the opinionated points made by the documentary. Another example of something that has little substance and also backs up the point I made earlier about the documentary focusing too much on older artists preaching about what is wrong with music today is the comment by Trent Reznor from around the middle of the movie: "Now that everyone is empowered with these tools to create stuff, has there been a lot more great shit coming out? Not really. You still have to have something to do with those tools. You should really try to have something to say." The reason this quote is being placed in this review is I found it to be the most prominent of all the quotes I could use that combines subjectivity with lack of meaning, and it therefore illustrates my point. To quickly break this down, the first half is regarding the music coming out (from where and what outlet, exactly?) not being great. Whether or not current music is great is an opinion, yet Trent is stating it as fact. The second half of that statement can be interpreted in much the same way that "playing from your heart" and "being real" can, which is completely dependent on the person. Not only does the meaninglessness show exclusivity towards certain artists, but it can come across as discouraging, not inspiring, because it implies not doing something "for real," or "faking it," whatever that means, indicates you shouldn't even start to make music. That is a message I am close to certain Dave Grohl likely doesn't want to send. The third part of it, however, is the most well done because the mood lightens up, the history has been covered, and the opinions and their reasons for the most part quiet down. These factors, coupled with the fact that watching the artists in the studio nearly gives the impression that you are in the studio with them due to the way it was filmed makes this part of the documentary the most fun for me to watch. Bottom Line: I am a fan of Dave Grohl's music and can appreciate this documentary as a great entrance for him into directing. I still have respect for Dave Grohl and his documentary on Sound City because it is technicaly well done and is fascinating to watch if you don't know about the studio, Sound City, because it gets the historical message across. But if it's goal was to change people's minds with it's opinions, I don't know how far it will get, as it certainly didn't change mine.

    The first time I saw this documentary, I was thrilled. I thought it did an exceptional job speaking the messages it needed to convey, namely the closing of Sound City, the stories of the records and the people involved, and digital technology's takeover. At the time it seemed the documentary captured the feeling of being in the studio with the people making what would become the soundtrack to this movie fairly well, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Sound City as it was told. However, for me, this documentary movie did not age as well as I hoped. After not watching it for a long time and then coming back to it, the documentary, while still technically superb and appearing historically accurate, came across to me as, in some parts, showing some older artists that are preaching cynical opinions about the current music coming out today. These opinions wouldn't be so problematic if they didn't show up as often as they do, but it gets distracting, especially if someone like myself isn't fully on board with the opinions which are shared. In addition to the opinions themselves, the people in the movie sometimes back up their points of view and the general opinion of the documentary in ways that either mean very little or are unclear. A common theme in the movie is that an artist must "play from their heart" and "be real" to be any good. This is one such example of something that on the surface sounds like it has the same universal meaning to everyone, but after digging a little deeper does not really have any set definition. To clarity, one person could theoretically define being "real" as making or playing what sounds good to them, whether or not sounding good contradicts the rest of the opinionated points made by the documentary. Another example of something that has little substance and also backs up the point I made earlier about the documentary focusing too much on older artists preaching about what is wrong with music today is the comment by Trent Reznor from around the middle of the movie: "Now that everyone is empowered with these tools to create stuff, has there been a lot more great shit coming out? Not really. You still have to have something to do with those tools. You should really try to have something to say." The reason this quote is being placed in this review is I found it to be the most prominent of all the quotes I could use that combines subjectivity with lack of meaning, and it therefore illustrates my point. To quickly break this down, the first half is regarding the music coming out (from where and what outlet, exactly?) not being great. Whether or not current music is great is an opinion, yet Trent is stating it as fact. The second half of that statement can be interpreted in much the same way that "playing from your heart" and "being real" can, which is completely dependent on the person. Not only does the meaninglessness show exclusivity towards certain artists, but it can come across as discouraging, not inspiring, because it implies not doing something "for real," or "faking it," whatever that means, indicates you shouldn't even start to make music. That is a message I am close to certain Dave Grohl likely doesn't want to send. The third part of it, however, is the most well done because the mood lightens up, the history has been covered, and the opinions and their reasons for the most part quiet down. These factors, coupled with the fact that watching the artists in the studio nearly gives the impression that you are in the studio with them due to the way it was filmed makes this part of the documentary the most fun for me to watch. Bottom Line: I am a fan of Dave Grohl's music and can appreciate this documentary as a great entrance for him into directing. I still have respect for Dave Grohl and his documentary on Sound City because it is technicaly well done and is fascinating to watch if you don't know about the studio, Sound City, because it gets the historical message across. But if it's goal was to change people's minds with it's opinions, I don't know how far it will get, as it certainly didn't change mine.

  • Oct 08, 2016

    C'est pas mauvais, mais ça a surtout mis la table pour Sonic Highways,

    C'est pas mauvais, mais ça a surtout mis la table pour Sonic Highways,

  • Sep 09, 2016

    3.9/5 Impressive as all the guest stars may be, Sound City tends to loose itrs track towards the end as it enjoys presenting the history and the aspects of the locations but eventually doesnt really go nowhere conclusive on the matter, at least not beyond implications. However it does not take away the fact that Sound City does a great job at documenting some important history and connecting a ton of stories and little details that make the documentary even more enjoyable.

    3.9/5 Impressive as all the guest stars may be, Sound City tends to loose itrs track towards the end as it enjoys presenting the history and the aspects of the locations but eventually doesnt really go nowhere conclusive on the matter, at least not beyond implications. However it does not take away the fact that Sound City does a great job at documenting some important history and connecting a ton of stories and little details that make the documentary even more enjoyable.

  • Nov 30, 2015

    If you like music, you'll love this.

    If you like music, you'll love this.

  • Sep 04, 2015

    Dave Grohl must have learned a great deal from James Moll during the making of the documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. This time Grohl not only tells the story, but steps behind the camera as the director. Grohl shows skill and makes a seemingly insignificant story interesting. The film tells the tragic, yet glorious tale of the Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. Against the odds, a seemingly a rundown sound studio in a former manufacturing facility produced several classic rock n roll albums. Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, and Slipknot recorded watershed albums there. The film walks through the formation and history of the studio and explains a great deal about the process of making a recorded. It also comments on how different the process is today, not necessarily for the better. It is almost a perfect documentary, but the end drifts into the making a reunion album involving collaborations of various artists who recorded at Sound City. The resulting music from that album is nice, but watching the making of the reunion album is less interesting. It is still a very well made documentary with tons of great interviews. Any fan of rock music from the 70s-90s will love it.

    Dave Grohl must have learned a great deal from James Moll during the making of the documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. This time Grohl not only tells the story, but steps behind the camera as the director. Grohl shows skill and makes a seemingly insignificant story interesting. The film tells the tragic, yet glorious tale of the Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. Against the odds, a seemingly a rundown sound studio in a former manufacturing facility produced several classic rock n roll albums. Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, and Slipknot recorded watershed albums there. The film walks through the formation and history of the studio and explains a great deal about the process of making a recorded. It also comments on how different the process is today, not necessarily for the better. It is almost a perfect documentary, but the end drifts into the making a reunion album involving collaborations of various artists who recorded at Sound City. The resulting music from that album is nice, but watching the making of the reunion album is less interesting. It is still a very well made documentary with tons of great interviews. Any fan of rock music from the 70s-90s will love it.

  • Jul 08, 2015

    A very fun documentary and a close look on the legendary Sound City music studio. This features some of the greatest musicians and writers of the last 40 years giving their stories and insight on the music business and their lives.

    A very fun documentary and a close look on the legendary Sound City music studio. This features some of the greatest musicians and writers of the last 40 years giving their stories and insight on the music business and their lives.

  • Mar 17, 2015

    Honest tribute for a recording studio! Just gearing up for "montage of heck"

    Honest tribute for a recording studio! Just gearing up for "montage of heck"