In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re talking about bands we thought should have been bigger than they were.
Watching Troubled Hubble play live, it was hard to imagine a world in which the band wouldn’t be successful: These four young dudes from exurban Chicago played with a sort of manic, wonderful energy, channeling indie-rock influences from the then-recent past—Modest Mouse, Built To Spill—into something more immediately joyous. The stars seemed to line up perfectly for them, too: Bigger labels came calling after the excellent 2003 album Penturbia, and Troubled Hubble ended up going with Lookout Records (Green Day, Ted Leo, large swaths of pop-punk history) for 2005’s Making Beds In A Burning House.
The group recorded the album with Dismemberment Plan guitarist Jason Caddell at the production helm—his band was clearly an influence, too—and ended up with its strongest, most assured, nuanced, and catchy record yet. It starts big, with the chiming “14,000 Things To Be Happy About,” a sweetly chugging rocker whose upbeat guitars and drums sneakily hide some dark lyrics about the folly of youth and the pointlessness of materialism—wise words from a guy as young and innocent looking as Chris Otepka. The line that always hit me was the sadly sarcastic, “We’ll take the fake happy over knowing what’s wrong.” But it wasn’t to be, at least not in the long term, and the band that once toured like there was no tomorrow eventually decided that there wasn’t one, splitting up in the fall of 2005. (I was at the last show. It was monumental.) Otepka went on to front the far mellower Heligoats, which is still a going concern, while his bandmates started various other projects around Chicago, including Picture Books and Kid, You’ll Move Mountains. Below, a pretty bad video for a pretty great song.