Originally published in the Hindu Sunday Magazine on April 29th, 2013
Back In Time
Various Artists – Sound City: Real to Reel
Rs 499 (CD), Rs 165 (MP3)
Remember the ‘90s? You should, because it wasn’t too long ago. The denim fashion, the pop groups and then, of course, there was the grunge scene, followed by the rise of alternative rock and what later became ‘post-grunge’. Grunge was mainstream at some point in the ‘90s, with widespread critical acclaim and album sales. A part of that decade died when Sound City Studios in Los Angeles closed in 2011. Foo Fighter’s frontman and Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl decided to make a documentary about the history of Sound City Studios, where artist such as Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot, Fleetwood Mac, Kyuss, and Nirvana had recorded. Grohl went about interviewing a lot of rock’s big names and decided he might as well have them on the soundtrack. And so there was the Sound City Players – consisting of names such as Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Corey Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Brad Wilk and Grohl himself.
With liner credits like that, it’s no surprise that you’ll expect too much from the big names on Sound City: Real To Reel. ‘The Man That Never Was’ features Australia’s Rick Springfield (and pretty much the rest of the Foo Fighters), so you know what it sounds like. They go punk rock on ‘Your Wife is Calling’ with Fear’s Lee Ving and Queens of Stone Age’s Alain Johannes, which is the most interesting turn on the album. The moodiness is really down to the collaborators, but it sounds too close to a Foo Fighters with a lot of guest spots thrown in, despite including artists from different sub-genres of rock. There is that typical ‘90s sound, though, which fans will love most about Sound City: Real to Reel. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor is a much more pensive man doing his part on ‘From Can to Can’t’, a bit unimpressive despite the fact that’s he’s been into alt metal more now with his current band Stone Sour.
A bit of an odd pairing is with Paul McCartney on ‘Cut Me Some Slack’, with Grohl, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear. It’s easily the heaviest and rawest thing McCartney would ever do, and he pulls it off with an energy even he probably wasn’t sure he had.
It is one big party, but you wonder who it’s for. By then, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme is around to jam, and adds that wonderful jaded feeling to the album, quietly bursting into a menacing riff on ‘Centipede’, tripping out on the classic grunge tip-of-the-hat that is ‘A Trick With No Sleeve’ and joining Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor for an insane instrumental jam on ‘Mantra’, which is a clear winner for the Sound City Players to bow out on.