The Lonesome Crowded West: Life with strip malls and other forms of bombarding pavement.


Modest Mouse (MM) has been one of those bands that have helped shape myself as a person and develop the compassion I have towards people from all different corners of the world. Despite not living through the 90’s with Generation X, I have always been able to connect with some of those who survived the decade through the lyrics of Isaac Brock. A mastermind of metaphors, innuendos and a bunch other random blue collar worker slang that makes MM so unique. Let’s take into account that these folks (MM) were brought up in Washington, a state known for its musical scenes in both Seattle and Olympia. Both these cities were headlined by bands such as: Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Candlebox. No offense to these fine bands but the music speaks for itself, grunge in Seattle was a more straightforward riff-rock atmosphere with an experimental metal feel and acts in Olympia just seemed to keep getting stranger and stranger by the months. MM was something more, in fact the only other band that could compare at the time was Built to Spill. Modest Mouse brought a certain rawness to their playing style, the bass and drum grooves of Judy and Green were dance-able and paired with Brock’s unconventional phrasing and rhythmic guitar playing, the trio had plenty of upside.

Modest Mouse, a rag tag troop that for the most part consisted and for purposes of coming to a census, was made up of three dudes by the names of Issac Brock, Jeremiah Green and Eric Judy. MM essentially became a one of a kind songwriting group that was one of few that was coming out of the East side of Washington at the time. Before that the region was known to have a more hair band style but at the time the three started jamming and writing that’s when you really took notice and you knew that these kids had some potential.

These three would come together in a little town known as Issaquah in the state of Washington. According to the documentary, The Lonesome Crowded West, Issaquah was essentially popping out mini malls by the dozens on the most fertile grounds of Washington. To make things simpler the world was changing, the age of internet had made a crack into this little town and people like Issac, Jeremiah and Eric were left in a concrete jungle of nothingness but at the same still populated by the masses. I think even at their ages (late teens to very early 20’s) they noticed that not every era of change was good. The landscape of the town as well as the area was changing, a front row seat to watch the forest fall and urban sprawl bloom. Anyhow, the fact was they were living in area where pointless mounds of steel manure were being built, they were stuck in what they would call a lonesome crowded west.

The Lonesome Crowded West (1997), an album that in my mind is a must own. I am serious, you should grab a copy. This is an album that I have been able to go back to time and time again, is one that I played a lot on my old Walkman and now play when I drive up and down the various highways, freeways and interstates in California. It’s funny but the first song I ever heard by MM was actually “Dramamine” back in 2002 which was off of their first album This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (1996), a great album but cannot be compared to The Lonesome Crowded West. I mean it is a track like “Cowboy Dan” with lines such as ‘He drove to the desert, fired his rifle in the sky. And says, “God if I Have to die you will have to die,”’ that make this album memorable. Not to mention the exchange of yelling and softness that comes with old Cowboy Dan. Other tracks that stand out on this album are “Truckers Atlas” that has to do with driving the roads the old fashion way, having to tour in order to get you music out there. No cheat sheets or helpful sites like YouTube, Facebook and SoundCloud to get your sound out there. “Trailer Trash” that is basically a reminiscence of Brock’s childhood while he lived in Oregon as a kid adjusting to the hardships, I mean the title basically gives it away.

To me Modest Mouse represents the perfect rock band. Like I said before Issac has a sweet voice but is still able to yell, Eric and Jeremiah have some type of sixth sense where they are just able to keep a perfect rhythm. A real shame that Eric Judy had to part from the band but I guess all good things must come to an end. As much as I love the old stuff I can’t help but also reserve a special section for all the new stuff that has come after The Lonesome Crowded West. I have always tried to express myself honestly and I hope that there are no misconceptions out there as I am not a pretentious hipster kid, I simply treasure the older MM much more. Modest Mouse’s last albums have been over produced but if you can’t get passed that “Oh, they don’t sound the same,” attitude you are going to miss a lot of great jams. Even after 22 years Modest Mouse is still putting out work that surpasses most artists of today. Even then what do you expect? These guys are now in their late 30’s if not early 40’s, you grow up, you don’t necessarily change but at the same time you do. You can still find little hidden gems within their last albums. Back in 2009 they released and EP No One’s First, and You’re Next, it featured great songs like “The Whale Song,” the grooves are still there just more poppy but still uniquely Modest Mouse,

Stay tuned as Modest Mouse is overdue (I know they are) but they are just about to deliver. MM are about to release their sixth full length album Strangers to Ourselves which is set to release March, 17 2015. Make sure to check out released singles such as: Lampshades on Fire, Coyotes, The Ground Walks, with a time in a Box and The Best Room. The last being an old track that actually started around the time The Lonesome Crowded West was being mastered. These exemplify a new Modest Mouse with a touch of the old.

Mario is a DJ with KSSU

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