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The Lonesome Crowded West

by Modest Mouse

Released November 18, 1997 via Up Records

Reviewed November 28, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine (61%), Cowboy Dan (44%), Trailer Trash (44%)

An indie rock essential (dare I say the genre’s greatest? Maybe.), The Lonesome Crowded West is a road trip to nowhere, but a ride worth taking nonetheless. The trio of Isaac Brock, Eric Judy, and Jeremiah Green hit the road for nearly an hour and 15 minutes, taking in the scenery of shopping malls, abandoned parking lots, chain restaurants, drug-riddled towns…and all the essential hallmarks of American culture.

There’s next to nothing pretty about The Lonesome Crowded West or the narratives it presents. It’s dirty, pessimistic, sarcastic, and downright depressing—but it is also one of the most gripping and emotionally poignant records ever pieced together. Hitting the brakes and swinging the curves as they come, Modest Mouse switch between quiet, acoustic endeavors and more jerky, punchy bits that weave helplessness and desperation into the fabric of the album’s sound. Isaac Brock and co. wander through the desolation, lending their eyes to us in the form of existential and nihilistic songwriting by way of Brock’s raw and visceral vocal performances. His emotions spill out on each of the 15 tracks, finding their place amongst stories of divorce, alcoholism, religious tension, and so many more topics that lend themselves to the overarching themes of desolation and alienation.

The world becomes viewed through gray-tinted glasses as everything becomes cold and mechanical. The existentialism, boredom, and repetition all bottles up and sputters out in fits of existentialism, anger, and helplessness. And as these emotions pile on one another and continually spiral, the band simultaneously lays their foot on the gas, working in perfect sync—with an almost jam-band-like feel, especially on the longer tracks—as the world you knew as a hopeful, loving, and innocent kid comes crashing down.

Sheer disillusionment never sounded so good. – Dominick (10/10)

Modest Mouse's second studio album, The Lonesome Crowded West, chartered new ground for the indie rock sphere. The up-and-coming band of the day cemented their status as leaders of the new school with a 70+ minute epic. Rooted around themes of alienation and existential anguish, The Lonesome Crowded West offers up a potentially depressive, yet ever-rewarding, experience. Do we suffer for the sake of suffering, or is it just how things are—an integral part in the belly of the beast. An unavoidable human feature that keeps our spirit on its toes. Dwelling on the past inevitably leads to a foggy future. Learning to live with it is the only way forward. Use it, or be used by it. Modest Mouse, especially Isaac Brock's lyrics, tapped into the space between. Not quite lonely, but not far from falling off the face of the earth while remaining firmly on it, and disappearing into oneself in plain sight. You'd be surprised where and when you encounter this feeling for yourself - no one is out of its tenacious, unforgiving reach. The Lonesome Crowded West catches a trio of talented musicians still in the throes of their teenage years, producing material fit for a band of decades of experience. – Peter (9.5/10)

Dominick: 10/10 | Jared: 9.5/10 | Peter: 9.5/10 | Cam: 8.8/10 | Pax: 8.6/10 | DeVán: 8.5/10

Community Reviews:

For an album almost maxing out the space on a compact disc, The Lonesome Crowded West makes use of all that time with amazingly chaotic breakdowns here, and slow, introspective, enough-to-make-you-cry moments over there. A statement on the rapid expansion of infrastructure and consumerism, the record is both packed with energy and passion. – @albumopedia (10/10)


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