When I first head Secretly Canadian’s re-release of the second Zero Boys album, History Of I was not blown away. I thought it was OK, but I’m no ‘80s hardcore completist, and for me it sounded like a mix of early Black Flag, DOA, and a less playful Descendents. That’s the problem with ‘80s hardcore and punk releases; a lot of the time they don’t stand up musically to the more popular bands of the time.
For every Minor Threat there were a thousand lesser hardcore groups that have been forgotten, and for most of them it’s probably best that they’re not remembered. Though there’s the mind frame with record collectors and DIY historians that the forgotten are the most important, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the music is most important, but as historical artifacts there’s a lot to learn from these forgotten bands.
Craig Finn of the Hold Steady illustrates this point amazingly well in his article for the Guardian—where he talks about the importance that the Zero Boys held for him as a Midwestern hardcore fan in the ‘80s.
Finn really paints a picture of what it’s like to be an ‘80s Midwestern punk fan, and all the excitement that went along with the burgeoning hardcore scene. Finn also clearly illustrates the necessary progression of punk fans and how it’s inevitably detrimental to the scene.
After reading Finn’s article, one can understand the cultural importance of the forgotten, even if it seems they’re a copy of the more popular bands of the time. Not to say Zero Boys fall into this category—they’re competent at what they do and the lyrics and intensity really shine a light on ‘80s Midwestern malaise. Though they’re not the best hardcore band of the time, they stand out as Midwestern trailblazers and Finn’s article will make you understand their importance. This article is a must read for all hardcore/punk fans, all that were raised in the middle of nowhere, all the punk fans that grew up and got disillusioned, and everyone that considered punk rock the only music as a teen but felt alienated by it as a young adult.