Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records

Hachette. Apr. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9780306925481. $30. MUSIC
Ruland (coauthor, Do What You Want) focuses on the far-reaching legacy of the independent, Southern California record label SST, created and still nurtured by the creative, iconoclastic, and strident Greg Ginn. Ruland deftly examines the transformation of Ginn’s mail order electronic business into SST, which in 1979 started pressing records for Ginn’s hardcore-punk band Black Flag. The author follows the upward climb and musical changes of the path-breaking band (guitarist Ginn, bassist Chuck Dukowski, and a revolving cast of drummers and singers) and other early SST acts such as the Minutemen and Hüsker Dü After describing Black Flag’s implosion by 1986, Ruland deals with the many experimental outfits who began their careers on SST including Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr. He ends with the slow deterioration of the label due to lawsuits, cash flow issues, distribution problems, and major label poaching of SST bands.
VERDICT Supplementing previous works, such as Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life and Steven Blush’s American Hardcore, with new in-depth interviews, Ruland expertly conveys the importance of SST to the rise of hardcore and indie rock and the challenges faced by a small label in the cutthroat corporate music industry. Rock fans will be fascinated.
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