... [a] well researched history of Ginn and the label he founded ... And it’s a thrilling story in the early going, the tale of a culture being stubbornly constructed from the ground up ... it’s a little disappointing that Ruland—a fiction writer who’s also co-authored two earlier books on Southern California punk—generally sticks to label history and doesn’t make a stronger argument on his subject’s behalf ... Ruland ably catalogs...ups and downs—and deserves much credit for keeping the narrative afloat through the ‘90s and early aughts, well after the label had exhausted whatever authority the zeitgeist had conferred on it. He does assume a readership that knows the bands well, which makes for limp music criticism at times ... But he also delivers a potent cautionary tale about business ideals gone sour.
A good history of SST Records is long overdue ... Ruland does a great job in charting the rise of SST ... The bands could not have been more different: no thousand-word review can do them justice. And this is where Corporate Rock Sucks gets frustrating. Ruland chose to fix his narrative eye on Ginn and Black Flag, documenting their intertwined careers in granular detail. Maybe that was the right play, but I wish he’d told me more about the great bands Ginn brought into the SST fold. Ruland might have devoted a full chapter to each of them, and I would’ve devoured every word. Instead, he takes pains to catalog dozens of releases from obscure SST artists that didn’t sell then and don’t matter now ... I would’ve liked to know more, too, about Ginn’s million-dollar ear: What, exactly, did he hear in each band when he first encountered its work on a beer-drenched stage or hand-delivered cassette? ... Ruland writes with an easy cadence and a clear mastery of his subject, especially when he dwells within the punk canon. No one is likely to carve a better portrait of Greg Ginn, the lanky gearhead at the center of the SST storm. Ruland’s book leaves 'plenty of room for further study of SST Records,' as he acknowledges at the end.
... illuminating if baggy ... Unfortunately, though he notes many bands’ reasons for leaving (including being forced by the label to tour endlessly), Ruland never fully elucidates how the label imploded so spectacularly. While a bumpy ride, the insights still make this worth the effort.