Zero Boys - Vicious Circle (Cover Artwork)

Zero Boys

Vicious Circle (1982)

Toxic Shock

While hardcore's history is steeped in the well-known scenes of L.A., D.C., Boston, and New York, the Midwest gets relatively little attention outside of Negative Approach. Perhaps it's because many of these superior bands didn't have luck to release or record on now well-known regional indie labels like X-Claim or Dischord. Maybe it's because they were outnumbered so much on the coasts.

Either way, there's no good reason why the Zero Boys' classic Vicious Circle album has gotten lost over time. Easily as riveting as the Bad Brains' ROIR tape or anything put out by Dischord in their hardcore heyday, it's among the best material to come out of this prolific period of indie music.

Coming together in Indianapolis, the Zero Boys evidently started as a more traditional '77 punk group, releasing an EP in 1980 in small numbers and to little fanfare. It wasn't until they were turned on to the Dead Kennedys and hardcore punk that they decided to pick up the speed. This might leave one to think of them as bandwagon hoppers, but their execution was entirely original.

Mixing the pop hooks of the original punk wave with the speed and political fury of hardcore, their songs are anthemic while retaining a high-speed urgency. The song subjects seem to run the usual gamut of social misanthropy and living positively, with the usual emphasis on the negatives of drug use. While pieces like the title track and "Drug Free Youth" speed along with all the fury of their peers, "Amphetamine Addiction" and similar songs are more melodic, recalling D.O.A. or early Scream.

It can't be stressed enough how underrated this is. Along with Die Kreuzen, Articles Of Faith, and Negative Approach, this is as good as Midwestern hardcore got.