Monday, August 04, 2014

Various Artists - Sound City: Real to Reel (2013)

The Dave Grohl documentary about the Sound City recording studio is amazing -- check it out when you have a chance.  This studio (now closed) produced albums by bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Dio, Metallica, Johnny Cash, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and an album by Nirvana you may have heard of called Nevermind. 

The compilation that accompanies the film is what we are reviewing here.  Grohl has coerced a number of musicians to create some new songs for the soundtrack, all recorded in analog with the Sound City soundboard.  

We'll depart from the usual review format with a track-by-track review of the album.  (Grohl plays on every track.)

1. "Heaven and All."  This collaboration between half of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Grohl is classic BRMC, with Grohl mimicking their sound perfectly. A very solid start to the album.

2. "Time Slowing Down."  It's mainly the half of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave you don't know.  It's a little languid, but the track shows off the vocal production capabilities of the board early, and the guitar possibilities late in the song.  Not my favorite track.

3. "You Can't Fix This."  The first superstar track, and she sounds great.  It's a classic Stevie Nicks track, highlighting her timeless delivery.  The right kind of groove to feature her with.  Well done.

4. "The Man That Never Was."  Rick Springfield?  Are you kidding me?  Awesome!  Backed by the entirety of the Foo Fighters doesn't hurt either.  It's a good solid tune, and a rocker to boot.

5. "Your Wife Is Calling."  Fear's Lee Ving (if I've heard a Fear song, that's news to me) fronts thrash meeting Sound City. Clearly, Grohl will take all comers.  A little simple vocally, but spirited and fun; still, it ultimately falls a little short.

6. "From Can to Can't."  Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) meets Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) in a nice, lower tempo rocker.  This builds up nicely with surprises and vitriol.

7. "Centipede."  This one starts as classic Josh Homme.  It takes a while to get to a cacophony of guitar, but just when you think it's just never going to get there at all... it hits you in the most pleasant way.  Nimbly composed and produced post-grunge rock.  (I just make these genres up, remember.)

8. "A Trick With No Sleeve."  Another Homme tune, an okay track that doesn't go anywhere.

9. "Cut Me Some Slack."  Why is this the highlight track?  A few reasons: 1) all of the surviving members of Nirvana (Grohl, Krist Novaselic, and Pat Smear) recording a track for the first time since the band ended; 2) the song won a Grammy; and 3) oh, did I mention the band is fronted by PAUL MCCARTNEY?  It's a great track with a nice fuzz guitar - it has a Beatles White Album vibe - and rhythm section brilliance in its subtlety.  When the song hits overdrive, it's really wonderful.  Sir Paul still has it.

10. "If I Were Me."  Finally Grohl does some vocals.  You wouldn't expect this to be ballad-y, but it is, and it really works.  A nice soft song.

11. "Mantra."  Grohl, Homme, and Trent Reznor?  Yes please.  The song was more fun to watch being constructed in the doc than to listen to.  It takes a long time to get to a quick resolution, then abruptly ventures into a complete song change.  It takes the journey from very repetitive to very interesting, but it takes a while.

Overall?  It's good but not truly great.  Not a session listener but worth revisiting.

CD Placement rating:  Portable CD Case.

- Snilch

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