Blake Butler of AllMusic praised the album's diversity, noting the range of "quiet, brooding acoustics like 'Bankrupt on Selling' and dark and pounding thrashers like 'Cowboy Dan'", and called the album "indie rock at its very best."
Pitchfork ranked The Lonesome Crowded West at number 29 in their list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1990s, and the song "Trailer Trash" reached number 63 in their list of the 200 greatest songs of the decade.Spin ranked the album at number 59 in their list of the 100 greatest albums of 1985–2005, and Entertainment Weekly included the album in their list The Indie Rock 25.The A.V. Club has described The Lonesome Crowded West as the band's breakthrough recording. Sam Hockley-Smith, in a retrospective review for Stereogum, refers to The Lonesome Crowded West as "the album that made Modest Mouse a great band instead of just a good one" and writes that the primary theme of disillusionment in Brock's lyrics is "not pretty, but it's honest, and that honesty makes it beautiful, like Modest Mouse were desperately trying — and failing — to hold onto that last bit of naiveté."
In June 2012, Pitchfork.tv released a forty-five-minute documentary on the album. The documentary included archival footage taken during live performances and original recording/mix sessions.
As of June 2000 the album has sold over 60,000 copies in United States according to Nielsen SoundScan. 
The double-vinyl edition released on Up Records includes an extra track; "Baby Blue Sedan", and a slightly re-ordered track listing. Rather than having a gatefold cover to house both records, or putting both records in a single cover, the double-vinyl release was shipped in two different covers. The 2014 vinyl reissue on Glacial Pace contains the same track listing and two-cover configuration.