Zero Boys

Picture of Zero Boys

Vicious Circle

Zero Boys - Vicious Circle ©1982 Nimrod
1. Vicious Circle
2. Amphetamine Addiction
3. New Generation
4. Dirty Alleys/Dirty Minds
5. Civilizations Dying
6. Livin' In The 80's
7. Drug Free Youth
8. Down The Drain
9. Outta Style
10. You Can Touch Me
11. Forced Entry
12. Hightime
13. Charlies' Place
14. Trying Harder
15. She Said Goodbye
16. Slam And Worm

Alongside the Midwest hardcore scene's other two chief musical exports (those being the disgusting, juvenile, and occasionally hilarious Meatmen, and the uniformly bitter raging of Negative Approach), The Zero Boys burst forth in 1982 with Vicious Circle, an album which merged the bouncy, simple pop hooks of The Ramones with furiously fast guitar work and ample doses of bratty teen angst. Through this aesthetic, they largely helped define the blueprint for what is today instantly recognizable as the sound of eighties American hardcore. The riffs are speedy and basic, the lyrics point fingers at everyone and everything, and I'll be damned if that whiny high pitched guitar tone doesn't remind me of a revved up R/C car. What I'm getting at, of course, is that Vicious Circle is one of hardcore's all time great albums, even if it hasn't yet quite gotten its full due as an obviously classic release ala the likes of Minor Threat's Complete Discography or The Dead Kennedys' Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables.

While these days, the sound that The Zero Boys pioneered on here is taken for granted to the point of sheer stagnation, Vicious Circle nonetheless captures a young and exuberant group of kids playing their hearts out, bashing out these fourteen* tracks with a sense of urgency and excitement that is often strived for though rarely achieved by today's batch of hardcore hopefuls. Furthermore, aside from high amounts of sheer kinetic energy, most of these songs are monstrously catchy as well. Whether they be straight up hardcore (the title track, "Forced Entry"), or more overtly melodic ("Civilizations Dying", "Trying Harder"), the lot of these tunes put hardcore's best aspects on full display by both kicking ass and getting caught in the head, and really now, what more could any aficionado of hardcore (or good punk rock in general) want than that? An incredibly tight performance by the band and unusually clear (though by no means glossy) sound quality only further add to the overall effectiveness of the already well written music.

Putting it plainly: This band straight up rocks and still manages to sound fresh and vital today, some twenty-seven years or so after Vicious Circle's initial release. I'm not going to lie and say I love every song on here ("Living In The Eighties" and "Charlies' Place" -- their grammar, not mine -- are two rather uneventful numbers), but even so, those brief moments pass by far too quickly to get on my nerves to any great degree. The bottom line is that if you fancy yourself a fan of eighties hardcore, you owe it to yourself to add this fine document to your collection. Aside from its heavy impact upon the development of the aforementioned subgenre of punk, Vicious Circle is at heart a terrific album, both infectious, aggressive, and every bit as worthy of the high esteem to which many better known classic punk albums are held today. Give credit where credit's due, and give the Zero Boys a shot. Odds are good you won't end up regretting it...even if the lead singer happens to sound eerily similar to GG Allin on his very first album (Always Was, Is, and Always Shall Be), which came out prior to his drug addled, poop-eating exploits later on in life. But I digress…

*CD reissues of Vicious Circle on Lookout! Records and (most recently) Secretly Canadian have added (the respectively awesome and so-so) songs "She Said Goodbye" and "Slam And Worm" as bonus tracks. Even with these two additions, the entire album still clocks in just fifteen seconds over the twenty-six minute mark.

Review by Hunter Brawer

Review date: 09/2009

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