Text: Daniel Salas
The Zeros weren’t just an American band from California, they were Chicano kids caught up in the mix of the legendary punk rock scene that was going on in Los Angeles in the late 70s. The band’s first album, Don’t Push Me Around, is an essential piece of music history in not only my record collection, but also in the collections of many of the Chicano punks that I grew up with here in El Paso.
I was first introduced to this album when I was in high school by my friend Angel who had all the cool records. Yeah, you had your Ramones and Misfits (Which was your intro to punk rock 101) and then you had your British favorites like the Buzzcocks or The Clash. We had The Zeros. There was a sense of pride owning this record as it felt all our own. There was more of a connection with this record and this band because we were Chicano kids ourselves growing up in a punk rock scene. This was our band to admire.
Often tagged as the Mexican Ramones, The Zeros played a style of snotty pop punk with crunchy guitars and heavy Mexican accents on the vocals. Formed in 1976, the band included Javier Escobedo on guitar and vocals, Robert Lopez on guitar (later to become El Vez), Hector Peñalosa on bass and Baba Chenelle on the drums. Coming out of the scene that birthed underground legends later to be greatly admired such as The Germs, The Weirdos and Circle Jerks, The Zeros never got that legendary acclaim outside of a smaller circle of admirers. But the Zeros stood aside the punk sound that was popular in LA. Instead of adapting to the more in your face punk sound of the time and place, The Zeros concentrated more on pop melodies and singing about girls. As gritty as they tried to sound, the power pop influences of bands like The Nerves seeped through the sound if this group. They were just a little band of pimple faced Chicano punks in the middle of what was to become iconic times in history that would later be looked back at and analyzed many times over for its contribution to the story of American music.
On their debut album, Don’t Push Me Around, The Zeros deliver a pop punk package ready for pogo partying jammed with teenage punk lust. The songs were short and filled with energy and passion. What you get is 3 chord punk tunes you can sing along to very similar to the style of the Ramones. On the opening track the band set the pace for the rest of the album with an upbeat shotgun blast of pop structures with distortion levels on the guitars set all the way. No funny “wah” pedals or self absorbed fancy guitar solos found here. Just straight up 2 and a half minutes of hurricane rock and roll destroying. The band slows the tempo on songs like She’s Just a Girl on the Block but keep the distortion heavy and the melodies good for a sing along. All the songs on the album are around the 2 to 3 minute mark, keeping it short and sweet, but jam-packed with punk rock punch and aggression.
Overall this band is a great listening experience, Don’t Push Me Around is a classic underground album that is now appreciated and celebrated beyond the cult realm. You will see their name on all the old punk flyers and get named dropped all over the books and magazines that talk about the crazy LA punk scene. The Zeros are now considered pioneers of the late 70’s west coast punk explosion and are essential to the history of American music.