Phantastic Ferniture - Phantastic Ferniture

by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2018-07-27
Phantastic Ferniture - Phantastic Ferniture
Phantastic Ferniture - Phantastic Ferniture

Maybe it’s the sweltering heat that drives folks indoors to pick out songs on their guitars, but for some reason my native Texas and Australia seem to crank out an endless supply of top notch songwriters.  Lately Australia has had a bumper crop of particularly talented, and primarily women, songwriters.  Julia Jacklin certainly stood out a few years back with her subtly layered debut LP, Don’t Let the Kids Win.  With only another winning single to show since then and plenty of shows under her belt, some new music is certainly due.  Though we may have to wait a bit longer for more solo material, Jacklin and some of her buddies assembled a one-off holiday band that stuck together long enough to put together a full album’s worth of material.  Masquerading as Phantastic Ferniture with Jacklin on lead vocals, she is joined by Elizabeth Hughes on guitar, Ryan K. Brennan on drums and Tom Stephens on bass.  Interestingly, Stephens played drums on Jacklin’s solo album so doing a bit of a rhythm section switcheroo here.

If Jacklin’s solo work is all head and heart, the Phantastic Ferns show more sizzle and swagger and Jacklin sounds totally at ease with it.  Most of the tracks have Brennan and Stephens stumbling through the door like some happy ass Luddites flailing away at their new found instruments - putting down a base layer to build on.  At its most gritty the album has some mildly grunge/psych flavor on tracks like ‘Take It Off’ where Jacklin’s sultry vocal and twisted blues recalls early Cat Power.  The harmonic guitar pings of ‘Mumma y Papa’ also hearken back to Chan Marshall’s moodier days.  A harder psych edge comes in on the echoey scream of ‘Parks’ while things go almost goth on ‘I Need It’, which also showcases Hughes’ most tortured guitar work.  

Though the album tends to be more about sound and attitude as opposed to lyrics, ‘Uncomfortable Teenager’ does have Hughes and Jacklin recalling their youthful awkwardness and bad decisions.  With the benefit of hindsight Jacklin reflects “move to the city, baby, it’ll all work out”.  But the best tracks here are about locking in a groove and going with it for a few minutes.  The overly apostrophized  and rollicking ‘Fuckin’ ’n’ Rollin’’ breaks in all the right places as it breezes along.  Whether “rollin’” refers to the same sentiment as Liz Phair’s ‘Fuck and Run’ or to “a roll in the hay” (as we Texans say) is of little matter.  It certainly comes off as more of the latter as Jacklin romps her way through it.  And ‘Dark Corner Dance Floor’ has a sinister disco beat about it with Jacklin’s most soaring vocals and Hughes adding perfectly timed staccato harmonies.

While the band are probably a one off recording op, and aren’t going to rival some other fabulous foursomes we know, it’s a worthwhile bit of ruckus for sure.  Recalling some live bar shows where ‘Fuckin’ ’n’ Rollin’’ was played more than once alongside a Christmas cover song it wouldn’t have been fair to only limit the band’s exposure to those Sydneysiders in the know.  I’d recommend giving this one a few spins and letting the Ferns green up your life a bit.

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