Fiona Apple
The Idler Wheel...


2.0
poor

Review

by Alex Robertson EMERITUS
August 25th, 2012 | 40 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist


The critical reaction to Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do (hereon The Idler Wheel) has been so harmonious in its positivity that to not like it feels almost like accusing the music criticism world at large of deluding itself. The album itself seems to corroborate this impression, as it contains all of the aesthetic ornamentation of a bona fide great album: it’s audacious, complex, challenging, and intensely personal. But, above all, this thing is difficult, intentionally so. This is certainly not a bad thing--in fact, it’s sort of refreshing to see this from such a well-known artist releasing her first album in seven years--but here, on this abrasive drag of an album, it becomes sort of problematic.

Much of this stems from Fiona Apple’s utter subordination to being self-consciously difficult, as if this in and of itself is a desirable artistic objective. Which maybe it is, but it feels inexcusable in this context, as Apple frames what could be a serviceable opener in “Every Single Night” with chords seemingly chosen via Ouija board. The overall effect is strikingly creepy, yes, but it’s also discouragingly vacant of any significance beyond a gross fascination with its own opacity. This would be fine, perhaps, were it not for the constant impression that Apple is doing all this in the name of eschewing something else: accessibility? Catchiness? Enjoyability?

In this way, the cumulative effect of The Idler Wheel, with the exception of maybe one or two tracks, is that of ten “Every Single Night”s in a row. At best, it sounds unfinished, like the sketches of a talented songwriter who has a few good ideas but no way to effectively string them together. At its worst, like on the unbearable “Left Alone,” it sounds like that same songwriter regressing so far into a blankly rebellious anti-melody mindset that all she can manage to spit out are baby gurgles, thoroughly devoid of structure and intensely unpleasant to listen to.

Even the best track here, “Valentine,” showcases some of Apple’s artistic weaknesses; in particular, the severely clumsy opening couplet--“You didn’t see my valentine / I sent it via pantomime”--exhibits her smugly verbose approach to lyrics; the unwieldy album title attests to this same tendency. The track is still the most successful on the album, largely because Apple gets out of her own way. It’s the only song that doesn’t feel sabotaged by utterly inorganic-sounding diminished chords into dissonant oblivion. This is all probably a conscious decision on Apple’s part, but that serves only to make the whole thing more disappointing: The Idler Wheel is the sound of a great singer and songwriter opting out of a symbiotic relationship with her audience and her own music, instead choosing to aggressively combat any of those unlucky listeners who dare to expect something enjoyable from her. With artists as smart and self-aware as Fiona Apple, this is sometimes the way it goes. It’s just too bad that the end product, for all its flourishes of artistic ambition, had to be so profoundly empty.



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user ratings (440)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Emeritus
August 25th 2012


15262 Comments


Obama Basedgod

breakingthefragile
August 25th 2012


3079 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with you on this one fellow Alex. Well written review still, so have a pos.

Alxander19
August 25th 2012


123 Comments


no.

PistolPete
August 25th 2012


4022 Comments


Wow, I needed dictionary.com open in another tab for this beast. I like the spin you took on the album, very interesting although the reception from users/staff won't be good.

Alxander19
August 25th 2012


123 Comments


I disagree so hard it hurts but still well written like all your stuff, pos'd.

Ire
August 25th 2012


41948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

robertsona

Rev
August 25th 2012


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agreed

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


32190 Comments


Oh man, it's been awhile since I've seen "in and of itself" in a sputnik review. I was getting worried there

robertsona
Emeritus
August 25th 2012


15262 Comments


huh


Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


32190 Comments


Personal joke

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


32190 Comments


Sonic attempts to work his way out of a paper bag

Stay tuned for further developments

Mewcopa0
August 25th 2012


1874 Comments


add bass review. pos'd

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


11298 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Props you made your review sound almost as awful as you

think this album is

PistolPete
August 25th 2012


4022 Comments


giiiiiiiitttttt ssuuummmmmm

Gyromania
August 25th 2012


20636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha rudy :P



seriously though alex, this review is superb - definitely one of your best.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


11298 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Self consiously difficult lol brb when I'm better

Jade
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2012


10632 Comments


I was tempted to use the word "phenomental" to describe this review.

The fact that you almost made me use a retarded hybrid word to describe your review highlights just how great it is.

Ponton
Emeritus
August 25th 2012


6058 Comments


train tracks and car cracks

Digging: The Hotelier - Goodness

DirEnRefused
August 25th 2012


2866 Comments


Very impressive, albeit hypocritical, review.

qwe3
August 25th 2012


21689 Comments


never liked fiona apple

also her long album titles are retarded



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