Take an independent music store in a neglected area of the North East, a couple of diehard metal fans, a Status Quo rocker who wants to be buried in a coffin made of his own vinyl collection, and ‘charming’ is hardly the first word that springs to mind. But charm is exactly what Jeanie Finlay’s documentary Sound It Out (2011) has in spades.
Sound It Out is the last remaining independent music store in Teesside, its survival near miraculous in a world where even big name music chains struggle to survive. At the centre of the film is Tom, the shop’s owner and a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge. From Abba to Zappa, he’s pretty much heard it all, and it’s this one-of-a-kind specialist service that makes the shop so beloved by its regular customers. Amongst Sound It Out ‘s varied clientele are some rather interesting chaps, my favourite of which had to be the roguish Mack, who testifies that the shop has everything one could want apart from a Thai bride, and whose wife who thinks Meatloaf has a ‘nice’ voice.
Finlay’s portraits of the people loyal to the shop are sensitively captured – despite their differences in musical taste or age, the shop offers all a form of escape and a place where they can nurture their passion free from judgements of character they face elsewhere.
Although there’s plenty of northern humour that will put a smile on your face, the film is also a quiet, bitter-sweet reflection of what the store has brought to the community, and all that would be lost if it were to close. Sound It Out is a love letter to the independent stores which continue to bring character to communities, and keep their doors open against the odds.
The Sound It Out DVD comes packed full with music-related extras, including an intense short by Tim Mattia whose focus is a band dubbed ‘the worst in the world’. In time for Valentine’s Day, Finlay’s 2003 documentary short Love Takes is also included, a series of interviews with people young and old about love, marriage and heartbreak.