As the story goes, Johnny Ramone once replied to a complaint that the
Ramones’ songs were too short by saying: “They’re not too short; we
just play ’em real fast.”
In describing The Zero Boys’ 1982 debut album “Vicious Circle,” few words could be so apt.
Republished by Secretly Canadian after years spent out of print, “Vicious Circle” uses sharp, tuneful hooks and sly, black humor to cover a head-spinning range of material – greed, societal decline, sex, drugs, breakups, generational friction and more – all packed into the course of 16 tracks and 26 minutes.
Founded in Indianapolis in 1979, The Zero Boys are one of the Midwest’s great lost punk bands, part of a constellation of groups that emerged in the wake of the New York, British and West Coast punk breakouts.
These groups became legends in their local scenes, but they were ultimately doomed to obscurity by their non-commercial sound and their distance from the coast-based media industries.
Many of these groups left little behind except rare vinyl singles, low-quality bootlegs and “you-shoulda-been-there” anecdotes.
This makes “Vicious Circle” all the more extraordinary: Recorded live over a marathon two-day session, it captures The Zero Boys at the top of their game and with surprisingly clear production.
As a result, the Indy locals easily hold their own in comparison to far more famous contemporaries like The Germs, Black Flag and Minor Threat.
This is not to say that “Vicious Circle” is perfect – like many hardcore albums, parts get a little repetitive, and The Zero Boys’ influences are often glaringly apparent.
But by infusing the standard “louder, faster” style with wit, brains, discipline and skill, the group has produced a genre classic.