Troubled Hubble - Penturbia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Troubled Hubble

Penturbia (2002)

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I've been spending way too much money on CDs lately - Mars Volta, Suicide Machines, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The New Pornographers, Thrice, Brand New – but the amount of great new music is just astounding and I can't resist. I'm sure you know about all those bands though, and there is another CD I just had to buy as well, by a band I'm not so sure you all know about: Troubled Hubble.

These hard working boys from Batavia, Illinois are worth your attention. Remember when you ragged on me for missing the openers at the Ben Kweller show? I deserved it, because it was them, and their live show is extremely energetic and entertaining and should not be missed – it includes flailing rock jumps, headstands/shoulderstands, dancing, and hilarious improv singing sections when they extend their songs. I had seen them over a year ago when my band met up with them in Omaha, Nebraska, and I finally got to see them again last Thursday, and I had to pick up their newest full length Penturbia (they have an even newer EP out called "Yes Have Some, Yes Have Some" but I decided on this).

Ok, finally onto the album and their sound. Vocalist Chris has a wonderful geeky voice, sounding something like Doug from Built to Spill and Travis from Dismemberment Plan. The band's music also draws from these two influences – from the well crafted and inventive indie rock of both bands, to that dancey-power funk that D-Plan is known for. None of the songs on Penturbia have this disco beat that I have seen in their live show (those must be older material), but there are dancey numbers nonetheless, like "Migraine," reminiscent of Modest Mouse (think "Lounge" off "Lonesome Crowded West"). The occasional use of keyboard, pulled off live by Chris putting down his guitar, can be compared to the keys on Jets to Brazil's "Four Cornered Night."

The lyrics are great, and comparisons can be drawn to all four bands mentioned previously (all great lyricists), and are also comparable to Ben Folds. Like him, they have a way of keeping songs insightful without being overly metaphorical or impersonal, and are even chuckle-inducing, like Folds. In one of my favorites off the album, "Canoe," Chris sings about paddling along and seeing the popular girl that he cannot attain waterskiing by, enjoying what he does have: his canoe. Believe me, it's a lot less cheesy than it sounds. I love the lines "So I paddled on and I felt like a geek / those guys she liked had muscles and I was fairly weak / that's okay, though, I love my canoe / even though I cannot love you."

Another favorite is "Nancy" a happy-sounding bouncing song with a great melody, about a seemingly-perfect family hiding their hardships. This is showcasing one of the band's best attributes – they can make a point without depressing. Their live show and their music are incredibly fun, even while tackling tricky subjects; they are optimistic about it all. Yet they are not MTV happy-pappy-punk, they maintain the indie edge and originality. The guitars are not heavily distorted, the remain angular and at times intricate, the bass parts are some of the most creative I've heard (again reminding me of D-Plan) and the drumming is hard-hitting and energetic, but not overdone, always matching the mood.

The only problem I have with the album is the abundance of slow tracks towards the end. This problem may be alleviated as the songs grow on me, for those tracks remind me again of a more melodic Modest Mouse, especially "The Moon and Antarctica," and that album grew on me with patience.

Ok, ok, I'm rambling. I'll stop now…oh wait, the album sounds great for a small indie label release- ok that's it, for real. Take these ramblings as a sign that this band has affected me, and I insist that you go seem them live and buy this album.