Review Summary: They must not have liked that studio all that much.
In the world of music, there are a handful of places any aficionado will instantly recognise as sacred. The Hammersmith Odeon. Brixton Academy. CBGB's. Apple Music studios. These are important
places, where meaningful things took place; they have earned their legendary status, and are now to be held in it for all eternity. Right underneath these staples of music history, however, there are a handful of other places that often do not get as much recognition, despite being no less important in the overall scheme of things.
One such place is - or was - Sound City studios. Though none but the most enlightened of music lovers will be likely to gush about it should you bring it up, this recording complex bore witness to the birth of numerous variably important albums, from opuses by Fleetwood Mac and Cheap Trick to Nirvana's landscape-changing Nevermind
Unfortunately, the studio's importance in this regard was not enough to prevent its closure. It was, however, enough to warrant a tribute from one of its most dedicated fans - ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters Jack-of-all-trades Dave Grohl. Not content with merely purchasing the complex's original, vintage mixing board, Grohl took it upon himself to direct a documentary about Sound City and - along with some choice names from what is undoubtedly an impressive list of contacts - also provide the soundtrack for it.
The final product was Real 2 Reel
, the film's eponymous musical companion, the cast list to which reads like a who's who of rock music from the past four decades. Collaborators here range from old-timers such as Stevie Nicks and Sir Paul McCartney to young(er) bucks such as Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor or Nirvana low-end man Chris Novoselic. Curiously, most of these guests show up on vocals, with instrumental duties being left to a team of trusted session musicians, led by Grohl and Nirvana secret weapon Pat Smear.
With a lineup like this, listeners would be well within their right to expect a slab of noisy, visceral rock'n'roll - that is, unless they remember Grohl sold out years ago, Novoselic went on to form the rather mellow Eyes Adrift, and none of these musicians is much younger than forty. Otherwise, the prevalent sound on Real 2 Reel
- which makes predictably frequent allusions to Eyes Adrift and the lighter side of the Foo Fighters - may come as a disappointment. While a heavy, Melvinesque guitar does surface here and there during the course of these eleven tracks, this album is far from the unbridled aggression of Nirvana, the Nine Inch Nails, or Fear. Age has caught up to these musicians, and it shows.
However, mellowness is, surprisingly enough, the least of Real 2 Reel
's troubles. With apologies for pilfering AllMusic's spot-on review, this album sounds like what it is: a bunch of old musicians jamming in a studio. Most of the songs on here sound like an extended, particularly self-indulgent jam session, taking a decent concept and stretching it to absurd lengths until every ounce of interest has been sapped from it. Tracks like the funky Cut Me Some Slack
or If I Were Me
do contain some good ideas, and almost
manage to constitute good songs, but listening to Josh Homme ramble semi-coherently about bugs for what seems like half an hour is nobody's idea of a pleasant listening experience - at least not when said listener is not under the influence of drugs.
That is not to say, however, that a couple of moments on Real 2 Reel
do not hit their mark. The Springfield-led The Man That Never Was
is a blast of gushing, unabashed rock'n'roll, while Lee Ving's Your Wife Is Calling
mixes a sludgy Nirvana riff with hilarious spoken-word drunken ramblings, resulting in an aural cross between the Melvins and any given Jello Biafra project. The trippy, Beatlesque Time Slowing Down
- sung by Chris Goss backed by Rage Against The Machine's rhythm section - completes the trio of interesting moments on Real 2 Reel
, and give it a shred of worth for fans of the big names involved here.
At the end of the day, however, this companion piece to Dave Grohl's documentary cannot be considered a good album. None of the tracks contained within can be considered bad per se - well, apart from maybe Centipede
- but most of them are excruciatingly boring, and even the standouts cannot measure up to what these musicians are capable of. Most importantly, for an album which purports to be a passionate tribute to a relevant recording studio, by artists to whom it holds a significant amount of meaning, it is surprisingly lacking in a key element: heart. In fact, listening to the eleven tracks contained on here, one's main thought is that, if this is all the emotion this star-studded group could muster, they must not have liked that studio all that much.
Time Slowing Down
The Man That Never Was
Your Wife Is Calling