Zero Boys - Vicious Circle / History Of [reissues] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Zero Boys

Vicious Circle / History Of [reissues] (2009)

Secretly Canadian

Zero Boys aren't exactly the first band to come to mind when talking about `80s hardcore, but Secretly Canadian's recent reissues aim to at least get them a mention in there. The Indianapolis-based outfit formed in 1979 and helped forge the early `80s hardcore sound that was being popularized on the surrounding coasts, but ended up being highly overlooked in the process.

Their debut full-length, Vicious Circle, neither rages as hard as Black Flag or cuts as precise as Minor Threat, but it's a great little album and enjoyable historical document. With slightly more of an emphasis on the punk in hardcore punk, Vicious Circle rocks in the vein of the Germs' (GI), Dead Kennedys' Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and Bad Religion's How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (influences of which are mentioned up-front in the expanded liner notes). Things tend to hover somewhere between mid- and fast-paced, from "Civilization's Dying" packing a surprising punch of melody and hooks to the bizarre, quasi-Buzzcocks-esque pop-punk of "Livin' in the 80's" (which sticks out like a sore thumb, as it's a redux from the earlier and slower EP of the same name). This particular reissue (it's seen one by Lookout! in 2000, another in the late `80s by Toxic Shock) has some good background information and quotes from the band on the recording and the two bonus tracks ("She Said Goodbye" and "Slam and Worm") that didn't make the cut on the original 1982 release.

History Of is also reissued here, a collection of songs the band recorded with the intention of a sophomore full-length but never officially finished. It's also got their first EP, Livin' in the '80s. Though there's an occasional demo feel to these, something like opener "Drive In" is a woulda-been classic, with a driving tempo, simple hook and wailing solo. Not all of these songs work as well, though, as the band seemed to gain some confidence trying to branch out after doing some of their first full-fledged tours with various bands and getting to see the country (as well as Canada). The songs are often sort of clunky and lack the fire that made Circle so enchanting. Still, it's not terrible stuff and the songs have their moments. The EP itself at the end is much slower than Circle, but it's still got this casual snottiness about it that make them compelling.

For the most part, essential listening for '80s hardcore aficionados.

Civilization's Dying
Livin' in the '80s [EP version]