Zero Boys - Monkey (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Zero Boys

Monkey (2014)


A brief history lesson for those of you who might not know about the Zero Boys: they were a band that rocked and their debut album Vicious Circle is a must have for anyone with a yearning to track down essential punk releases. You don't really need much more than that and now this album sees the return of the Zero Boys, over 20 years after the band's last long player. Obviously with any kind of reunion or return to recording for a band that had a good reputation there is the possibility that the new material could stink, but the first track "Anti–Breakdown" dispels any such fears within barely 10 seconds.

The swagger that was evident all those years ago is still firmly in place and even though the 2013 7–inch hinted that the band hadn't lost its mojo, it's much harder to do the business over the course of an album. Once again listeners are treated to a sound that is fueled by a tank full of rock 'n' roll–tinged punk rock and it's a bit like Zero Boys have neatly traversed time and skipped the last couple of decades, a la Bill and Ted, to continue rocking out with nary a change in style. Obviously, 20 years does make a difference and perhaps there isn't as much thrust to the songs in comparison with the band's earlier material but nevertheless Monkey stands up remarkably well in the new millennium.

Four of the tracks have already been released on a 7–inch last year so that leaves 11 new tracks to hit my ears. My favourite track actually comes from that 7–inch and whether it's familiarity that does that I'm not sure, but "Monkey Meat" sure is a treat with a shuffling drumbeat keeping the tempo up from start to finish, helping the song to stand out.

As the band progressed through its original incarnation there was more of a move to a rock sound and some even started using comparisons to the Rolling Stones, more so on 1991's Make It Stop, and to be honest there are moments on Monkey where this actually makes sense such is the slightly more sanitized rock 'n' roll coming to the fore. The prime example of this is probably "White Face," which certainly conjures up thoughts of Mick Jagger and Co –– it is also one of a final quartet of songs that move much closer to that sound over a more punk/hardcore delivery.

Monkey is a well–rounded album although the sequencing would have been improved if those last tracks had been shifted around in the track listing. However, it's a strong enough return from a band that many people would not have thought would be recording again.

Like a number of other well known "older" bands including Stiff Little Fingers and the Buzzcocks, Zero Boys have produced this album using a fan–funded approach and have rewarded the contributors with a pretty good return on their money. My understanding is that this will be widely available too so it's not limited to those who coughed up in advance.