Every once in a while a heretofore ignored piece of Rock history is unearthed, deemed hip by the powers that be and mastered down onto a slice of plastic or vinyl for mass consumption. Luckily, that day has finally come for Indianapolis’ Zero Boys. This totally smokin’, early-‘80s Hoosier punk band’s mind-melting History of cassette, which had been languishing in obscurity for the last 24 or so years, has just been dusted off and given its very first CD and LP release by the good folks at Secretly Canadian. And not a moment too soon, as this kind of slash-and-burn adrenaline is what we all need a good dose of right now.
The Zero Boys were by no means refined (thankfully), but they knew how to effectively and intelligently blend an insolent, frustrated lyrical hook with a clockwork-tight rhythm section that alternated — often within the same song — between a fierce, hardcore-velocity blur and a deliberate, dirgy stomp.
This band was one of Grunge’s progenitors; the vocals are sometimes melodic (“Amerika”) or evilly obscured (“Seen That Movie Before”), and the soaring, upfront guitars most certainly verge on the metallic (“Black Network News”) without ever sounding like they’re aspiring for the Hair Metal radio cheese dominant at the time. It’s a fine line the Boys walk beautifully, a line that Green River, Melvins and Nirvana would walk a few short years later.
The songs are almost all strong. Particular standouts are self-mutilation-and-insanity anthem “Blood’s Good,” which truly shreds, and the desperate “Human Body,” which features this simple yet insightful lyric repeated with steadily increasing speed and deadpan intensity: “Stuck inside a human body/Living in a life of pain/Stuck inside a human body/With a stupid human brain!” Now that’s some no-bullshit angst! Like most of the sing-alongable choruses, it’s dumb but delivered with such heartfelt gusto that it’ll have you pumping your fists, fully giving yourself over to the collective dementia both suffered and spread by these fine, landlocked gentlemen. (Also newly available is the Zero Boys’ only LP, Vicious Circle.) Grade: A