Recently, I've been trying to convince someone that Modest Mouse is an objectively great band—an impossible task, taste being subjective and all, even though I am totally right. Part of the problem has been the difficulty of describing just how close to home The Lonesome Crowded West felt when it came out if, like me, you were growing up in the next metastasizing suburb over from the band's native Issaquah.

That album painted a picture of the Seattle suburbs as endlessly gray and bleak, a purgatory of ever-expanding empty parking lots pushing against the trees, choking out room to breathe. To an adolescent stuck in those suburbs, its sense of alienation and its specific view of that landscape—materially crowded but psychically lonely—felt just right. (Not that white, male, suburban, teenage ennui is the be-all and end-all of existential angst—it was just the best I had to work with at the time.) And, of course, it was an added bonus to see the band playing small, notoriously sloppy (and explosively brilliant) live shows in those suburbs.

All of which is not to say the album or the band's genius depended on hometown-specific pride or pity. Modest Mouse took their immediate milieu—and, importantly on foundational efforts like Interstate 8, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, and The Fruit That Ate Itself, this milieu included Olympia, Seattle, and the road—and mined broader sentiments from it. It was the strip mall, the suburban sprawl, and the vast highway as existential void, as a sketchy map of the modern human condition (and, really, the point was that these suburbs were just like everywhere else, and that none of it felt like anywhere at all). For all the increasingly generic (though great) appeal of the band's more recent work, starting with the universally anthemic commercial breakthrough "Float On," there's always that specific world of early Modest Mouse to return to.

But the whole argument for Modest Mouse's greatness goes beyond the band's old conceptual haunts. Isaac Brock consistently turns a hell of a phrase, twisting odd couplets out of almost clichéd tropes, and while his, um, singing isn't for everybody, his barking, half-rapping delivery has always sounded totally singular (also: Modest Mouse's occasional incorporation of hiphop cadences, scratching, and slang felt perfectly effortless, just the natural result of indie rockers growing up in the same MTV Jams–saturated world as everyone else). So, too, has the band's palette of discordant (and, later, coldly processed) guitars rubbing up against slightly grooving rhythms, even if it's become widely imitated.

I hate to be one of those fans who talks about how weird it is that this little band I liked from way back when has gotten big, but with Modest Mouse it is weird. It was weird when they got a major-label deal (remember when "selling out" was still a thing?). It was weird when Johnny Marr from the fucking Smiths joined the band. It was weird watching "Float On" rise to omnipresence. It'll be weird watching the band headline the football field of Memorial Stadium at Bumbershoot. And it will be objectively great. recommended