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Dave Grohl's 'Sound City' Documentary: The Critics Weigh In

By January 20, 2013

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Sound City, a documentary directed by Dave Grohl about the history of Sound City Studios, had its first screening at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. So how are the reviews? Let's take a look.

Variety critic Dennis Harvey liked the film, calling it an "infectiously enthusiastic love letter to the San Fernando Valley studio where his first band, Nirvana, recorded Nevermind, and where a staggering roll call of other beloved rock classics were created over the decades." Harvey prefers the film's first half, which dives into the history of the studio and insider accounts from the artists who made seminal records there, such as Tom Petty and Lindsay Buckingham. For him, though, the second half is less involving, "becoming a more conventional making-of promo for the imminent album of new music Grohl and producer Butch Vig have recorded with various Sound City veterans."

Billboard's Phil Gallo shares Harvey's feelings about Sound City, finding the final reels less interesting. Still, Gallo believes the documentary is "[a] must-see film for anyone who cares about recording techniques, equipment and studios.... The tech talk in Sound City is quite specific, but ultimately the film celebrates the human element in recording."

Reviewing for /Film, Russ Fischer hits on Grohl's overall purpose for the film, which is to craft "a tidy parable about rock music as an inherently personal means of communication." Beyond fun bits like getting to see Grohl, Josh Homme and Trent Reznor as they work together to come up with a song, Fischer says that Sound City argues that the studio "attracted musicians of a certain stripe, and the relationships forged there lasted far beyond any single recording session. The studio facilitated not only great records, but a network of people that led to something more meaningful than any one song or band."

I haven't seen the film, but these early reviews reinforce my own preconceived notions about what Sound City might be like: breezy, impassioned, filled with cool insider access, and also perhaps a bit self-promotional. Definitely worth seeing, though. And don't forget: You'll get your chance to check it out in a theater very, very soon.

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Photo: Sami Ansari.

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