Zero Boys: Vicious Circle History of the Zero Boys (Secretly Canadian)
Recorded in 1981 by a bunch of Germs-idolizing hardcore kids in Indianapolis, Vicious Circle is a punk classic. If you haven't heard this band before, it's definitely the place to start, powerful yet brutally clean-lined punches of hardcore from back when it wanted to be understood, with a singer (Paul Mahern) who enunciated and sterling recording quality that lets Mark Cutsinger's drum barrages and the nimble bass blast of David "Tufty" Clough (one of the greatest rhythm sections the genre ever generated) cut through with sharp-edged clarity while guitarist Terry "Hollywood" Howe's slabs of sound add even more heft. The songs may be tough and tensile, but they're also well-crafted and, unlike a lot of hardcore to come, don't blur together. And now the album comes with two more songs from the same session that were never released before. Don't be fooled by its title: History of the Zero Boys is not a best-of. Instead, it brings together tracks the band recorded before (1980 EP Livin' in the 80s) and after (unfinished second album) Vicious Circle. The five-song EP (the title track's a classic) finds their tempos less frantic, more Ramones than hardcore; the barely released later tracks (previously only on a limited edition cassette or on long-gone compilations, plus one "new" item, "Amerika") take the hardcore direction of their first LP into more varied areas that even include piano and metal. Everything their classic lineup recorded is worth hearing, so pick this album up too. You've got a choice of vinyl or CD for each release.