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Sound of the City’s search for the quintessential New York City musician enters Round Two this week, with battles in the Round of 32 daily. Keep up with all the action here.
Two CBGB staples from two different scenes, Talking Heads and Sick Of It All get in the Round of 32’s pit as we try to determine the ultimate New York musician. Will Sick Of It All follow its upending of No. 1 Bob Dylan with another surprise victory over a higher seed? Or will David Byrne and his ex-bandmates triumph?
Sick Of It All: “Sanctuary”
It’s a love song… to music! But it’s fast and thrashy, so it doesn’t get too mushy. (A friend suggested “Locomotive,” which also works.)
Talking Heads: “Life During Wartime”
This herky-jerky ode to the bad side of late-’70s New York life combines skronk, attitude, funk, and a defiant stance toward people who thought that the downtown scene was just a bunch of people “foolin’ around.” Be sure to catch what could be called the “workout version” above, which was captured in the Talking Heads concert flick Stop Making Sense.
Longevity: Talking Heads split in 1991, and despite the awkward 1996 project No Talking, Just Head, which had singers like Michael Hutchence and the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder filling in for the departed (and later litigious) Byrne, their influence lives on and was particularly notable during New York’s early-’00s disco-punk revival. (“This ain’t no disco,” the rallying cry from “Life During Wartime,” has been reappropriated far and wide, for better or worse.) Sick Of It All reportedly have an album coming out this year, and if recent events are any indication, they still have an extremely devoted fanbase.
Innovations: Talking Heads’ bubbling stew of musical styles from all over the globe inspired countless bands that followed it, from Vampire Weekend on down. While Sick Of It All likely inspired a lot of kids to pick up guitars and thrash, the milieu they operate in is a little more defined.
Starpower: Widely hailed as one of the groundbreaking acts to come out of the CBGB scene, Talking Heads were also early stars of the MTV era thanks to well-realized videos for tracks like “Once In A Lifetime” and “Burning Down The House,” and they still get props in the myriad run-throughs of ’80s pop culture. Sick Of It All had a much lower national profile—they got made fun of on Beavis & Butt-Head once—but their fans are pretty passionate.
Intangibles: Both bands played CBGB in their day, but only Sick Of It All can claim to have helped shut the place down by playing the now-departed Bowery venue’s final afternoon matinee.
Likely winner: Byrne’s band of New Wavers would seem to be the favorite here, but after their triumph over top seed Bob Dylan in the last round, anything seems to be possible for Sick Of It All.