Don’t overthink it. An undeniably useful guide for getting through the complexities of life. With a name that possesses esoteric grammatic humour, a quirky Rene Magritte stylized album cover that shows people with ferns for faces and lyrics that include “Mumma and Papa bear said never play with fire” and “fuckin’ and rollin’ just feels right“, don’t overthink it is the inspiring mantra of Australian musician Julia Jacklin’s new project Phantastic Ferniture and it’s in practice through their debut album. An antithesis to Jacklin’s solo debut Don’t Let The Kids Win because lyrically it’s looser and fun and with Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K Brennan (who complete Phantastic Ferniture’s triangle) the sound is full of gritty garage rock energy encouraging dance movement rather than the mellow folk and 1950s-country fit for whiskey-aided self-analysing of DLTKW.
On Don’t Let The Kids Win, Julia Jacklin was preoccupied and stressed by ageing, family, her level of musical success and her place in the jigsaw of the world. Although Phantastic Ferniture does contain some personal perspective – she recounts the awkwardness and tantrums of adolescence on ‘Uncomfortable Teenager’ and there are references to Sydney’s awe-inspiring Blue Mountains in the songs and the video for ‘Gap Year’ because it’s where Jacklin grew up – the lyrics this time around are less detailed and more about living in the moment. An example would be on ‘Dark Corner Dance Floor’, which reads like a Jamiroquai song: “You don’t see the moves I’m making. I’m just gonna dance, dance baby.” While ‘Bad Timing’ promotes the kind of free spirited-ness that Jacklin lacked on her solo release: “If you’re gonna act like that, you know that you will soon expire/If you keep waiting for someone to get the courage to run.”
The lyrical looseness and cheerful nature of the record is perhaps a result of the sporadic creation of the record and the birth of the band. It had to be composed over a number of years since 2014 during the rare moments when the band were happily reunited in Sydney and Jacklin and co. never put pressure on themselves with high expectations of the record, as it started off as just a joke-pun idea on an Australian brand name (Fantastic Furniture) and an antidotal respite to the member’s more dreary projects.
Although the music video, lyrics and mentality have the laidback flavour of fellow garage rockers Hinds at times, Phantastic Ferniture’s debut record is more creative production wise with enjoyable moments such as the effervescent hypnotics that connect the last two tracks, the gloomy drone of I Need It and the Royal Blood-reminiscent riff on ‘Take It Off’ makes this track cool and memorable indeed.
The most impressive thing of all is Jacklin’s voice. It’s consistently stunningly. It possesses the psychedelic spirit of Isabel Munoz-Newsome of Pumarosa when voice-holding and is just as engaging when calmingly talk-singing like Elle Rosewell side by side with The XX style guitars on closer Mumma y Papa.
All in all the Australian band’s debut is very phantastic or fern-tastic. Feel free to choose your pun but don’t overthink it.
Phantastic Ferniture is out now on Transgressive.