WOWEE ZOWEE (18)
May 2, 2018
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the subject of our favorite albums of the Nineties (1994–2003). A new installment in this series will appear each Wednesday during 2018.
THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | MODEST MOUSE | 1997
When I was about 16, it dawned on me that my (divorced) parents’ record collections included lots of LPs dating from their own formative years in the Fifties and Sixties, but not a single post-1970 release. This archaeological evidence indicated that around the time that they’d turned 30 and had children, they’d stopped listening to new music. Lame! Then, in the fall of 1997, I turned 30, and Susan gave birth to our first child that winter; and for several years I stopped listening to new music. Luckily, I’d picked up The Lonesome Crowded West. By the time I started listening to new music again, in the mid-2000s, it was all about the MP3s… so Modest Mouse’s sophomore effort may well have been the last CD that I ever purchased.
The Lonesome Crowded West is half-assed, in a purposeful and charming way. Isaac Brock’s lyrics, which castigate mindless consumerism, urban sprawl, organized religion, and dotcommers (“Working real hard to make Internet cash/Work your fingers to the bone sitting on your ass”), were much-discussed at the time. As a dotcommer myself, I could relate — but I enjoyed The Lonesome Crowded West primarily at a formal level. Songs like “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” and “Doin’ the Cockroach” deconstruct and reassemble elements of musical genres, from punk and post-punk to hip hop and country, that I’d loved fervently in my early and mid-twenties… but of which, by 1997, I’d grown a little tired. The jarring guitar noises and artfully slapdash production, the punk caterwauling and quieter tuneful moments, drummer Jeremiah Green’s and bassist Eric Judy’s dance grooves that you can’t quite dance to, pasty Washingtonians shout-rapping and scratching records: My road-tripping days may have been behind me, by that point, but this record is itself a trip.
The Lonesome Crowded West can, perhaps, be described as a half-assed generation’s Sandinista. When I listened to it, at 30, I trembled on the verge of a half-assed epiphany; you know, a road-trip epiphany. And now at 50, as I scuttle between New York and Boston on the Amtrak, rubbing elbows with drunk lawyers talkin’ about TV, I commiserate with Brock: “Please shut up!”
WOWEE ZOWEE: Stephanie Burt on UNISEX | Anindita Basu Sempere on UNDER THE PINK | Mark Kingwell on DUMMY | Bill Nericcio on AMOR PROHIBIDO | Sherri Wasserman on HIPS AND MAKERS | Mimi Lipson on THANK YOU | John Overholt on BEN FOLDS FIVE | Jordan Ellenberg on GET LOST | Chelsey Johnson on PERSONAL BEST | Marilyn Snell on MAXINQUAYE | Dan Fox on DIFFERENT CLASS | Devin McKinney on IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER | Alice Boone on MTV UNPLUGGED (ALICE IN CHAINS) | Rob Wringham on SPICE | Joe Alterio on BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE | Jason Loeffler on SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS | Rick Pinchera on EITHER/OR | Josh Glenn on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | Jennifer Krasinski on SUPA DUPA FLY | Sara Ryan on DIG ME OUT | Luc Sante on MEZZANINE | Molly Wright Steenson on I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE | Franklin Bruno on ENGLAND MADE ME | Michael Campochiaro on IS THIS DESIRE? | Adrienne Crew on CALIFORNICATION | Drew Daniel on I SEE A DARKNESS | Veda Hille on THE SOFT BULLETIN | Vanessa Berry on TEENAGE SNUFF FILM | Tom Kipp on GET SKINTIGHT | David Hirmes on DOPETHRONE | John Hilgart on YORK BLVD. | Deborah Wassertzug on JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT | Adam McGovern on INVINCIBLE SUMMER | Brian Berger on TIRED SOUNDS OF… | Michael Grasso on MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN | Jen Collins on HURRAH | Flourish Klink on THE TEACHES OF PEACHES | Judith Zissman on TALLAHASSEE | Lauren Oliver on SOUND-DUST | Jason Cohen on IS THIS IT | Matthew De Abaitua on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN | Jenny Davidson on TIME (THE REVELATOR) | Crystal Durant on LIVE THROUGH THIS | Gordon Dahlquist on GARBAGE | Erin M. Routson on WASHING MACHINE | Carl Wilson on TEMPTING | Jessamyn West on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS | Kaleb Horton on STREETCORE | Tom Nealon on BAZOOKA TOOTH | Erik Davis on DOPESMOKER | David Levine on FEVER TO TELL | Deb Chachra on MASS ROMANTIC.
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