Sunday, 8 May 2016

Oliver: Catherine Wheel - Balloon (1 February 1992)

"A cult band who should have been superstars" - I stand by that judgement after listening to their 1992 single, Balloon.  The Nirvana tracks I've added to this blog have engaged and thrilled me, and they would have definitely been going on a 1992 era mixtape had I been doing one at the time, but I cannot tell a lie - had I been buying records in 1992, then Catherine Wheel would have been getting my paper-round money ahead of Nirvana.

What I like here is the shiny immediacy of the song.  There's a spirit of inclusiveness in here which, if you were going to pick a side to participate with rather than observe, would have turned my heart away from the scary if fascinating antics of the grunge crowd.  But is it right to talk in terms of picking sides?  It's happened throughout pop music history whether it be between bands or scenes.  And it's not just clean fun here.  The "come down" refrain towards the end might not entirely be referring to altitude descension.
The drug references in the song and their open-mind/open door encouragement are nothing new, even in 1992 - but the attitude underpinning it isn't so different from that found in grunge music.  You had the choice to soar into the sky or crawl beneath the covers, but the fact that the ascent would inevitably lead to the comedown and all its attendant horrors, makes Balloon a far more subversive and dangerous song than it might otherwise seem to be.

Fades in quietly, by the way...

Video courtesy of Young Coconut.

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