I’m in a hurry so I don’t talk much but use the information I have: the Zero Boys are a hardcore punk quartet from Indianapolis, Indiana fronted by Paul Mahern. Other members include bassist Scott Kellogg, drummer Mark Cutsinger and guitarist Dave Lawson. When he walked into Keystone Recording in Indianapolis on August 18, 1981, Zero Boys singer Paul Mahern told producer/engineer John Helms he wanted his band’s debut LP to “sound like the Germs’ GI,” released two years prior. “He really nailed it!” laughed Mahern recently. Much agreed: Few records have ever sounded this whizbang buzzing. And whereas GI transformed an appallingly shambolic L.A. band into a shocking powerhouse, Vicious Circle merely snared a smokin’ Indiana band that’d been rehearsing five hours a day — so tight they spun this corker out in just two days, by recording live together.
It still bursts out of your speaker on CD as it did off a needle when released on Nimrod records 19 years ago. Terry Hollywood’s razor-zinging guitar and Tufty Clough’s Speedy Gonzalez’ bing-bing-bing bass playing (fastest fingers in the Midwest) burn like blowtorches, and drummer Mark Cutsinger plays like he IV’ed amphetamines. Mahern sings like a hurrying rabbit, rapid-firing words about assassinations/celebrity-shootings, anti-nostalgia, having a “high time,” and, well, doing speed. Whereas other records of the new hardcore scene tried to sound tough, this was like Johnny Thunders, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Dictators, and S.L.F. on 45, smiling like dopes. Reissued with two bonus tracks from the same session, Vicious Circle remains a vicious pleasure of frenzied attitude, chops, speed, tight playing, and rocket-launching zeal. (Jack Rabid)