The Yellow Balloon

The day I met my girlfriend, I didn’t know yet quite how rad she was.  So when we got in the car and I realized the Yellow Balloon was in the CD player, I tried to change it–most hip young thangs don’t think it’s too groovy to bop around in the car to sunshine jangle pop with five part harmonies–but she said she really liked it.  And two years later, we’re still together.

Anyway, this album is one that keeps winding up in my car and staying there for weeks.  It’s really good for the summer, but I’m also enjoying it on rainy nights this winter.  Perhaps it’s because of the lyrics to their title song:

I never liked the rain before
It always made me stay inside
There’s one thing that I know for sure
I’ve got a reason to like it
Since you took me for a rainbow ride

I don’t give a fuck if the lyrics are cheesy.  Love is cheesy, and you can capture more of its essence in carnivals and cotton candy than you can in watching Tom Cruise snog some bitch in a movie.  Technically, “Silly Love Songs” is the most romantic song of all time!

As for this band, their sound takes the “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” yearning of Brian Wilson’s production on Pet Sounds and brings it full-swing to satiation and glee on the tracks of this CD.  All the familiar tools of the Pet Sounds trade are here: harpsichords, concertina/accordions, banjos, virtually everything but the theremin.  But the tone is brighter, sunnier, more infantile yet more knowing.  It’s basically the child of Pet Sounds, or maybe the nephew or niece, the lost Beach Boys sunshine pop sound that Brian Wilson took just too much acid to ever find. 

My favorite tune off here is “Stained Glass,” a beautifully arranged song with brisk strings and that evokes the Left Banke as much as the Beach Boys.  It’s about standing at the threshold of love with someone special, and it’s always a joy to listen to.

There’s also a killer bubblegum/garage tune called “The Junkmaker Shoppe,” with odd rebellious lyrics about taking a girl and hiding with her in a shelf in the back, and a very “Try It” harmonica throughout.  Here we see the punk-gum head of Gary Zekley’s writing really emerge, in the way it would soon do for the Clique’s “Superman.” 

The whole thing is good, and like I said, this one will grow on you more and more with repeated listenings.  There are also solo songs by Don Grady (yeah, the dude from My Three Sons) who was in the band (disguised with a wig, so his television fame wouldn’t dictate the band’s fame!).  It’s a little bit of sunshine on such a winter’s day.

P.S. It came out on Canterbury Records originally.  I wonder if that has any connection to the store Canturbury Records in Pasadena?

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