White Denim's 'World as a Waiting Room' Finds Ambition from Quarantine

White Denim's 'World as a Waiting Room' Finds Ambition from Quarantine
Listening to World as a Waiting Room, it's hardly what one expects to result from a period of global crisis and uncertainty. The newest nine-track LP from prolific Texan rock outfit White Denim is the purest manifestation of those isolation-shaming memes circling the drain of social media feeds everywhere. (You know the ones: "Don't waste this time at home." "Make some art." "Be somebody." And so on.)

Written, recorded, mixed and mastered all in 30 days stretching from March 18 to April 17 this year, World as a Waiting Room is both ambitious in scope and surprisingly carefree in sentiment, particularly given the surrounding context. With the band's core members laying down their parts from their label's studio in downtown Austin, each track balloons out with additional contributors and instrumentation — trombone, saxophone, extra guitar layers, even an electric drill and "foley sound" — all recorded from home during extended quarantine.

As mainstays of the '70s revivalism running through lo-fi garage and indie rock over the past decade, White Denim aren't exactly known for their raw emotional depth. Instead, borrowing its title from an earlier single on the band's 2007 EP Workout Holiday, World as a Waiting Room uses the temporal stasis of an isolation mindset to strike a breezy balance between danceable "four walls and the truth" jubilance and plodding, mid-tempo meditation.

Opener "I Don't Understand Rock and Roll" uses warbling synth notes and keyboard arpeggios to soundtrack a lament for sunshine and clarity of thought. Meanwhile, longer cuts like the swirling six-minute "Work" and the psychedelic head-trip "Queen of the Quarantine" stretch the album's feel-good thematic tension to its breaking point.

Elsewhere, White Denim throw a little bit of everything at the home office wall and see what sticks, with jangly surf-rock ("Eagle Wings"), fuzzed-out garage rhythms ("Matter of Matter"), forlorn pop balladry ("Go Numb"), and trippy electric solos ("DVD"). But it's on the short and snappy "Slow Death" where mood and meaning coalesce into an elegy for our dark times, as vocalist/guitarist James Petralli croons: "I just read / Of thousands left / Without a bed / Across the West / And disappeared." 

It's a stark reminder that while the world might indeed be a waiting room for some, not everyone makes it out alive. (Radio Milk)