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Sundance: documentary ‘Sound City’ is packed with fun music

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29 2013 6:13 p.m. MST

In case there was any lingering doubt, it’s now official: This is Dave Grohl’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

“Sound City,” the documentary directed by Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Grohl that debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival is basically the story of how Grohl had the cash and cachet to buy the master soundboard from iconic music studio Sound City, transport that soundboard to his own music studio and then invite a bunch of his super-famous friends to come record new music with him using the old soundboard.

Make no mistake: Rock-music aficionados will absolutely adore this movie because of its deep, diverse A-list talent involved. Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield and Trent Reznor are among the iconic artists that come running to jam with Grohl and his “house band,” which includes producer Butch Vig, guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Taylor Hawkins. Additionally, Grohl scores insightful interviews with Neil Young, Tom Petty, John Fogerty, Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham and Rick Rubin.

But at the same time, “Sound City” feels more than a little self-indulgent. The film is basically an advocacy piece for why professional musicians should record onto analog tape instead of digital programs like Pro Tools — an agenda that pales in comparison next to some of the socially conscious documentaries at Sundance 2013 that treated much weightier issues like inequality in the American criminal justice system (“Gideon’s Army”), flaws in contemporary education (“American Promise”) and the abysmal living conditions of children in India who are infected with HIV (“Blood Brother”).

To Grohl’s credit, it’s hard to imagine anybody except him could’ve pulled together such an audacious pool of talent for a music documentary. There are a lot of reasons Grohl has so many friends in the music industry: In addition to his affable personality, he’s also a prodigiously talented musician who’s universally respected for his ability to excel at any role in a rock band (he famously provided all the instrumental and vocal parts for Foo Fighters’ 1995 debut album that went multi-platinum). Also, Grohl deserves special kudos for his prolific professional output and the fact he’s still rocking hard and winning Grammys at a time when virtually all his peers from the early-'90s alternative music scene are now either dead or de facto retired.

Content advisory: The language in “Sound City” is extremely obscene, in no small measure because almost all of the musicians in the film spew a lot of profanities while discussing their craft.

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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