J.McFarlane's Reality Guest Whoopee

Night School
9th February 2024

Format Info

Vinyl LP LTD 300 With bonus "Quit Foolin'... with Tom and Julia" Mix CD

With Monorail Exclusive Quit Fooling Mix CD

RIYL: St. Etienne, Portishead, Broadcast, Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, This Is Hardcore-era Pulp

From out of nowhere – if nowhere is the febrile, warped and twilit imagination of Julia McFarlane – comes Whoopee, the second album by J.McFarlane’s Reality Guest. Whoopee is an esoteric, kaleidoscopic movie in music form directed by Julia McFarlane and co-conspirator Thomas Kernot. Full of life, breakbeats and smokey vignettes on the fragile nature of interpersonal relationships, Whoopee is a stylistic evolution from everything McFarlane has done before. Surreal, beautiful in parts and replete with the aching wisdom McFarlane’s songwriting has always promised, this Reality Guest pulls back the curtain on a whole scene of naked truth.

Recorded in Melbourne in bursts since the release of 2019’s Ta Da, Whoopee features a new sound palette and band member in Kernot. The duo dive deep into electronic pop tropes, mining digital synths, samples, breakbeats and deep bass grooves, largely dispensing with live instrumentation. If Ta Da took twists and turns with your expectations, offering a Dada-ist, monochromatic take on pop music, Whoopee is McFarlane’s subterranean love-sick pinks, reds, greens, purples and blues. Becoming something of a tradition, the album starts with an instrumental intro pilfered from a 90s’ spy film or cinema intro music, puffing up the listener for the heart-squeezing bathos of Full Stops. Over a bleary backdrop of walking bass lines, jazz-inflected keys and smoked-out atmosphere, McFarlane’s poetry narrates the fragile state of a relationship: “You put a full stop where I thought there’d be a comma, I want the story to continue even with all the drama.” Over a palpable pain, the narrator is revelling in the drama of a relationship, addicted to tumult and heightened emotion. On Sensory, a space age bachelor lounge pad ballad, the converse state of the previous song is explored, here the narrator is battling the numbness of being out of the drama, stuck in a sensory-deprivation tank, anaesthesized and battling to emerge from the fog. Wrong Planet explores an otherworldly pop music, hewing a bright hook out of a sense of confusion. A bona-fide, sing-along chorus bursts out of the narrator musing on the absurdity of existing in this reality. It speaks of one of Julia McFarlane’s main talents, her knack of inspecting human relationships and states with a clear perspective, like an alien visiting Earth and realising everything we are is really, really strange.

Whoopee is both more accessible than previous Reality Guest work and somehow more obfuscated. Where the production on Ta Da was dry, sharp and strange, this Reality Guest is blurred, almost smeared with the effluvium of 90s+00s culture and existence. Through it all, it’s hard to deny the undeniable pull of the songs. Precious Boy carries on the lounge theme with a whole sampler of cut up sounds fading in and out of the haze as McFarlane’s voice is right up to the speaker cooing and free-associating, maybe in love or maybe in confusion… maybe they’re the same thing? Sometimes the listener is invited to just bathe in the tone of the vocal, as on Apocalypse, where the texture and timbre of the vocal is luxurious, bathing in piano tinkles and double bass throb. On lead single Slinky, a cut up beat reminiscent of Washingtonian Go-Go drum patterns leads, the song slipping through your fingers, elusive and presenting sound as pure pleasure. Closer Caviar jumps back into the broken breakbeats of a surreal funk, fuelled by the sensory pleasure of the music, a hedonistic whirl in rapture, the narrator now living life to the fullest in all its giddy heights and deep troughs. This is the album’s main character fully-actualised and in the terrible, beautiful moment. You don’t emerge from this cinema with any new knowledge, but you see the world how it really is. Until the next time.