It’s not like Jeremy Ivey has high hopes for the future.
“Hey tomorrow people / do you still blame the shit you do / on different colored people / who are not just like you?” he asks in “Tomorrow People,” the opening track of his new album, Waiting Out the Storm. The lyrics to this jangly psych-rock number alternate between Ivey’s earnest, if backhanded questions for future folks (“Have you sold the world itself?” “Do your dreams have commercials?”) and messages from present day (“tell me what happens next;” “sorry about the Earth”).
Really, this is the same mechanism as allegorical sci-fi: when Ivey addresses the people of tomorrow he’s really addressing the modern we about the racism, commercialism, ecological irresponsibility, and other humanitarian crises we wage upon ourselves without ever seeming to learn better.
Indeed, humanity’s cruel treatment of itself is the core of Waiting Out the Storm, and the album’s consistently incisive lyricism reflects the strength of its songwriting team. Ivey is the husband of singer-songwriter Margo Price, who co-wrote and produced Waiting Out the Storm. True, this album was written before COVID (of which Ivey is a survivor) and, really, any of 2020’s myriad disasters, but like many socially critical records it rings especially poignant in this bizarre, stressful era.
Together, Ivey and Price have created a standout record — even among 2020’s smorgasbord of circumstantially timely albums — and largely for the attention it pays to casual, offhand cruelty.
“You’ve got deadlines and dues / you know, the truth, it ain’t that funny / the kids need their tuition / and you’re not made of money,” Ivey sings in standout track “Someone Else’s Problem.” “It’s a shame that there’s a ladder / such a shame they’re at the bottom / but the weight that brings them down / it ain’t your problem.” The sprawling, patient tune evokes Neil Young’s On the Beach in the best way, and over its six minutes Ivey sings about police violence towards Black Americans, systematic inequality, school shootings, children caged in ICE facilities, climate disaster, and all in address to someone who probably could do something, but won’t. “There’s really no such thing / as someone else’s problem,” Ivey sings at the song’s close, delivering a bumper sticker-concise kicker to an already powerful song.
Sonically, Waiting Out the Storm celebrates the jangle of late ’60s and early ’70s American rock and roll. It’s a little cosmic here, a little overdriven, and a little countrified, with Eagles-esque tunes like “Paradise Alley” and “White Shadow” and the driving Bob Dylan street preacher sermon of “Hands Down in Your Pockets.”
“Things Could Get Much Worse” couches a guarantee of widespread doom in upbeat, swampy blues-boogie. It’s catchy, too, and it’s easy to find yourself singing it later. You’re doing the dishes or something, your mind is wandering, and you move your feet or your shoulders a little, crack a little nihilistic smile and quietly intone, “you know, things / could get much worse.”
That’s peak 2020 right there.