Oh what fun!
For just a moment there in the early 1990s, the Breeders, formed in 1989 by Kim Deal, the bassist for The Pixies, and Tanya Donelly, singer-guitarist for Throwing Muses, were everybody’s indie rock darlings. Their album Last Splash went platinum, propelled along by Cannonball, which somehow only made it to number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was featured in heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 in the quirky, joyous garage band video attached above, co-directed by Spike Jonze. This left a vivid impression, on both the critics and the slice of the demographic that really loves tight, energetic pop music, that still lingers. Has there ever been a more infectious groove? It just rolls along with authority, don’t it? The lyrics, meanwhile, are deliberately and playfully silly, in the finest rock & roll tradition:
I know you, little libertine
I know you’re a cannonball
I’ll be your whatever you want
The bong in this reggae song
…the reference to reggae arising from Kim Deal’s sense that she’d written something that crossed Caribbean rhythms with grunge music, to which she applied the provisional title Grunggae, imagining it to be an oddity with limited commercial appeal. Interviewed in Mojo in 2013, she said “Did we record a song that opened with me saying, ‘Check 1-2,’ and then loads of vocal feedback from my brother’s harmonica mike, and think, ‘This is destined for radio?’ That was the sort of thing that didn’t get you played on the radio then. We thought no one would play it.” Geez, really Kim? To my ears, from the very start, with drummer Jim McPherson tapping out a clever rhythm on the cymbal stand just before the bass kicks in, this thing had “winner” written all over it. The way it alternates between the mellower, harmonious verses and the raucous chorus, that irresistible hey now, the bass work, the urgent drumming, the sudden, decisive ending, wrapping it all up before you’ve had enough – that, folks, is how you do that. It’s actually incomprehensible how it only made it to #44 – what the hell do people want out of a pop tune, anyway, if this isn’t it? – and I wonder how many of the songs above it on the charts rate any mention today.
Oh, and you’re right if you think the woman behind Kim on guitar looks confusingly similar. It’s not a CGI trick or anything. That’s twin sister Kelly.