Dave Grohl hooks up with Nirvana bandmates plus Macca, Josh Homme and more for LA studio tribute
Sound City Studios in LA was a pretty rustic place, dusty with the romance of the ’70s country rock classics and grunge-era benchmarks that were recorded in rooms which hadn’t had their lino changed since 1969 for fear of affecting the legendary sound. On its closure in 2011, Dave Grohl ripped out a chunk of Sound City’s history by buying up its famed custom-built Neve analogue mixing desk. Then he gave something back by making a fond-hearted documentary about the studio, Sound City: Real To Reel, and putting together a supergroup including himself, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Krist Novoselic, Rick Springfield and a shifting line-up of LA rock notaries.
Set aside the historical significance of Sound City and the concept seems as deeply muso as Snow Patrol organizing a supergroup in honour of Pro Tools. Nonetheless, Sound City: Real To Reel Soundtrack captures a composite of the Sound City aesthetic, merging gnarly post-grunge rock with a ’70s country haze. This sounds like average Sunset Strip sludge when AOR singers like Rick Springfield take the foreground, as on ‘The Man That Never Was’, but otherwise throws up some feral and fascinating collaborations. When Grohl slopes into Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on ‘Heaven And All’ they create a deep and delicious sonic swirl that gives BRMC’s outdated pre-programming a modern psychedelic update. When Stevie Nicks steps up to screech and whisper about how you should “never dance with the devil”, Grohl and Taylor Hawkins faithfully recreate 1987 Fleetwood Mac with a little added Foos crunch. ‘Cut Me Some Slack’ is as much of a laugh for us – finding out what a Grohl/Novoselic/Pat Smear stoner rock band fronted by Paul McCartney would sound like – as it clearly is for Macca himself. “Mama watch me run!/Wanna have some fun!” he bawls, reliving his screamiest ‘Helter Skelter’ hair metal fantasies.
While ‘A Trick With No Sleeve’ – reuniting Grohl and Josh Homme – is bland, there’s a febrile sense of fun and adventure here. Grohl marvellously mimics the various styles of his singers, be they Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor on the seven-minute electro-shaman drone ‘Mantra’, or speed-punk legend Lee Ving shouting about drinking beer without his missus finding out on ‘Your Wife Is Calling’. Hence the album ends up as a tribute to each of the individual singers rather than Sound City itself. But as a flicked photobook of the studio’s shifting sounds it’s almost enough to make you want to chip off a piece of the brickwork and hold it to your ear to see if you can hear ‘Territorial Pissings’ in it.