Zero Boys | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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For a band from Indianapolis whose sole original LP was less than 23 minutes long and only available sporadically in the years after its authors blipped across the early-80s hardcore radar like vodka-mad porcupines, the Zero Boys were amazingly influential. By the time 1982's Vicious Circle was rereleased by Panic Button in 2000, I'd already heard about half its 14 terse tracks via cover versions and punk oldies comps. The Zero Boys were among the first groups to dare sticking pop melodies into piss-filled hardcore songs, and though Jello Biafra talked the band into cutting two tunes from their debut LP that he thought were too pop ("Slam and Worm" and "She Said Goodbye"), there's still plenty of melody to savor in cuts like "Civilization's Dying" and "Living in the 80s." (The most recent reissue includes the lost songs as bonus tracks.) But most important, without the Zero Boys later popcore bands like Screeching Weasel would have found it harder to convince the kids that playing songs you could shake your ass to wasn't necessarily selling out. After the band's demise, the members went on to more successful projects like Toxic Reasons, though they did regroup in the early 90s and release two hard-to-find (and far less revered) LPs, with Vess Ruhtenberg replacing original guitarist Terry Hollywood. For their current tour, both original singer Paul Mahern and bass player David "Tufty" Clough--whose superspeedy, percussive lines added spine-tingling zip to borderline-ordinary hardcore--are on hand, along with Ruhtenberg and drummer Mark Cutsinger, who also played on Vicious Circle. If the old guys have any warm blood left in their veins, I'd be surprised if they didn't kick some ass. I Attack, the Krunchies, Shot Baker, and Punch in the Face open. Fri 12/30, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $10, 18+.

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