The Balloon's pop lifts the better elements of late-Sixties songcraft (they even cover a Kinks tune) and incorporates them into a driving, urgent approach that leaves all the sissified alternacrap on the radio facedown on the ground. Tommy Anthony has long been one of South Florida's top songwriters, and he has the voice to carry his hooky-but-never-smarmy tunes to lofty heights. A listen to the CD Real will suggest that it was recorded at a major studio by a top-gun producer, its production values best described as glossy yet thick. In fact it was recorded by the band in Anthony's bedroom studio on consumer-grade equipment. The quartet's exhilarating live act takes those tunes to the next level. Anthony's front work receives immaculate support from guitarist/keyboardist John Allen, bassist Michael Quinn, and drummer Omar Hernandez (who backs Raul Di Blasio as well). If the group's sound reflects the late Sixties, so their career strategies embrace grassroots hippie ideology. No big-label deal. No video. No flavor-of-the-day hype machine. With nothing more than placement at the listening booth, the CD sold out at Tower Records in Chicago and Minneapolis. Miami, too, knows what time it is: New Times readers chose them as Best Rock Band last year. While waiting for the Balloon to take off nationally, Anthony tours as a guitarist for Jon Secada, a Four O'Clock fan. Now that's pop.