An article in L.A. Weekly recently declared the Zeros the “hands-down top-dog punk-rock band of the ’77 West Coast conflagration,” specifically singling them out as better than X, the band that usually gets the crown. Listening to some of the Zeros’ classic tracks, I’m not sure I agree. Even inarguably great songs such as “Don’t Push Me Around,” “Wimp,” and “Beat Your Heart Out” were held back by sloppy musicianship. But listening to the recordings I’ve heard of the Zeros’ recent reunion shows, I think maybe the L.A. Weekly’s right. The Zeros’ songs were inspired by ’60s garage rock, filtered through a ’70s punk sensibility, and are now played with a 21st-century professionalism. The result is that they sound timeless.
The Zeros started playing in 1976 in a trailer behind the Chula Vista home of singer-guitarist Javier Escovedo, who is part of the musical family that includes singer-songwriter Alejandro, former Dragons leader Mario, Latin jazz king Pete, and R&B star Sheila E. The next year, as punk rock exploded, the band quickly got tagged “the Mexican Ramones” and rose to the top of the heap. The Germs’ first show was opening for the Zeros.
A few years later it was over, and the band members went their separate ways. Second singer-guitarist Robert Lopez went on to a brilliant career as El Vez, “the Mexican Elvis.” Bassist-vocalist Hector Penalosa was in criminally neglected ’80s jangle-poppers Flying Color. And Escovedo has a solo career. The Zeros have reunited briefly several times over the years, but this time, 32 years after the peak of their fame, they may stick around for a while.
ZEROS: The Casbah, Saturday, August 22, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.