Goldfinger – “99 Red Balloons”
Song covers can be a great many things, sometimes paying tribute to great bands from yesteryear, and sometimes taking a popular song in a non-traditional direction for amusement and added popularity. Goodness knows what the decision-making process was behind it, but in 2000, punk/ska band Goldfinger released their third album Stomping Ground, which featured a cover of Nena’s “99 Luftballoons.”
For those keeping score at home, “99 Luftballoons” was a German protest song from 1983, and bears all the marks of New Wave hit. Goldfinger keeps many sonic elements in tact (including the German; the last verse is gesungen in Deutsch), but adds a bagfull of firecrackers' worth of explosive energy. Powerchords blaze, palm mutes crunch, and rapid-fire drum fills tear the old 80’s funk asunder as the band races through the song with reckless abandon. In short, it’s everything I love about pop-punk.
Lyrically, the song is silly. It tells of a couple that buy a set of 99 balloons (natch), and let them all go into the air. Rather than simply suffocate a few helpless flying fauna (which is the most likely thing that would happen), the balloons show up on the military radar as an enemy bogey, triggering a nuclear holocaust. On the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie spectrum of causality, it’s pretty out there, but WHO CARES BECAUSE THE VERSE IS STARTING GET IN THE PIT GO GO GO!!!
Sorry, I’m done now—this song makes me want to move.
Seriously. More than “Grand Theft Autumn,” more than “Clockwork,” more than nearly any other pop-punk song I can think of, “99 Red Balloons” is the track I would give to a power-pop neophyte as a gateway song, and is easily one of my favorites to date.