Suggestion Sunday: “The Lonesome Crowded West” — Modest Mouse

On Nov. 18, Modest Mouse fans celebrated the release of an album that changed the scape of Indie rock music forever, “The Lonesome Crowded West.” Widely regarded as the most important indie release of the decade, LCW reinvented the sound that was coming out of Olympia, WA and gave it a folk artist twist by lyrically capturing the people’s feelings about the changes occurring out West at that time.

According to Pitchfork’s documentary on the album, Issac Brock was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan when writing LCW. Modest Mouse’s eccentric and energetic rock paired with a folk and blues style of songwriting was key to the success of the album. This may also help explain LCW’s long-lasting favorability in the eyes of fans who view the 1997 to 2001 era of Modest Mouse as the best iteration of the band. In a sense, Issac Brock had become an echo of Bob Dylan, but an echo that wasn’t afraid of getting really weird.

Tracks like “Doin’ the Cockroach” and “Shit Luck” became set staples at the band’s concerts for years as well as the soundtrack for many amateur skating videos.

Highlight Tracks: “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine,” “Doin’ the Cockroach,” “Cowboy Dan,” “Trailer Park,” “Shit Luck,” “Polar Opposites,” and “Bankrupt on Selling.”

Quite possibly one of the best songs ever written by the band, “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” is the best example of Brock’s cryptic lyrics and the expansive meanings held in every single verse. After dozens of listens over the years, I still find new revelations in this track. On the surface, it’s a social commentary on American consumerism and what we look for in the pursuit of happiness but it goes much further than that.

It is an accumulation of everything that goes into the futility of man, an exploration of the human condition and an acceptance to this realization that all we really have in life is to “find out the beginning, the end and the best of it.” We all share common experiences and dilemmas and the way we respond is what makes us who we are. The power of the song comes through lack of closure in the closing lines:

“You could be ashamed or be so proud of what you’ve done
But not no one, not now, not ever or anyone”

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