The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—continues, and you get to vote on who makes it to Round Two. The first pairing in our Queens division pits its top seed, three-chord punks the Ramones, against the Big Four thrashers in Anthrax. Check out the arguments in favor of each.
The Ramones were ridiculous. The Ramones were deadly serious even as they were taking the piss and style-coordinated even though that style was an anti-style—the polar opposite of the first-wave political punk coming out of the U.K. when this foursome made its debut. Even with dozens of three-chord singles to their credit (“Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Beat On The Brat,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and a cover of “California Sun” chief among these) you never really felt like you knew the Ramones, the sunglasses and leather jackets always keeping you at a distance. And yet, there’s no denying the group’s influence on successive generations—bands from the Dead Kennedys to the Mr. T Experience to the Queers to the Strokes to Green Day to Shonen Knife to Guitar Wolf have claimed spiritual or stylistic ownership in four dudes from Queens who unknowingly pioneered a rock’n’roll archetype.
Faster than a shark, Anthrax came ripping out of Queens in 1981, serving as a crucial cornerstone of the burgeoning thrash metal movement, which was, at the time, primarily a West Coast scene. Easily the most tongue-in-cheek of thrash’s Big Four, the band adapted comic stories and offered darkly funny social commentary while using pure, unchecked speed with much more glee than their contemporaries, who wielded it as more of a weapon. Their collaboration with Public Enemy on “Bring the Noise” may have come five years after “Walk This Way,” but the hybrid of metal riffs and rapped vocals would inspire scores of bands, for better or for worse.