Review Summary: One of those pieces of art that words cant quite do justice, Fiona Apple has crafted an instant classic.
Fairly late into the newest album by Fiona Apple, the song "For Her" begins with a deep sigh. What follows that sigh seems to be a lighthearted, tongue twisting and bombastic dress down of an abusive man and his increasingly deplorable actions towards the women in his life. In spite of the lyrical content, the song sounds like it could be the backing track for an old iPod commercial. What at first seems breezy and breakneck quickly circles back to that deep sigh, as Apple exhales and refrains "Good morning, good morning/You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in" as the song devolves into a blissful denouement as if Apple is trying to fully expel all the vitriol left within her from this evil that was done to her. "For Her" is the condensed and most pure distillation of what she has accomplished with Fetch the Bolt Cutters
, an album at once immensely sharp and intensely heart breaking.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters
is an evolution of Fiona's previous efforts in the realm of percussive and expansive jazz influenced pop. Considering the audience of Sputnik, an interesting comparison might be to Scott Walker's The Drift
: both are albums of dizzying variety in both their use of unique instrumentation and progressive qualities that, rather than being used to dizzy the listener into a musical stupor, instead serve to contextualize the emotions and tone of their records. "Relay" relies on a plethora of different house hold objects being used to create the multiple underlying rhythms the song jumps between as Apple snarls "I resent you presenting your life like a fucki
ing propaganda brochure," as she simultaneously tries to push against the "endless race" put on her by her own need to transfer negative feelings from one relationship to another.
The album largely hinges on your receptiveness to Fiona Apple as a woman who, despite harboring an immense amount of pain and regret, still wonders at the world and sees the comedy in ~it all~. She is a storyteller first and foremost, and while Fetch the Bolt Cutters
is certainly the most sonically interesting and fascinating piece of music she's put her name on, her classic take on the singer songwriter as poet and narrator is the heart and soul of the record. On album highlight "Newspaper", Apple recounts a sordid tale of a past lover and his new lover, and her own story in relation to their budding romance. She wavers between her own meta narrative of imposing herself onto this new ingenue, supposing they are kindred spirits and that he has caused them to forever lack the ability to connect with each other, to a jealous and almost pitiable sneer of "you're wearing time like a flowery crown...And I'm alone on that summit now, trying not to let my light out" that builds and builds until eventually Apple's voice can barely even keep itself together. It’s a beautiful and harrowing tale that still finds time to frame the root cause of this anguish: an abusive man trying to take away the narrative from two women who otherwise might have been friends.
Then again, Apple still has that light that keeps her from devolving exclusively into melodrama and resentment. "Shameika" is a bouncy ode to a woman from her youth who, despite the complimentary yet condescending words of the men to her around the time, was the hot knife that stuck with her throughout the years with the simple statement that Apple "had potential". The title track of the album is a sad but sideways grinning look at her dealings with her adolescent interpersonal relationships. After running through how the bullying affected her, she candidly sings "I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill," which metaphorically grows up into the next song "Under the Table" spending its ennui digging into Apple's legendary temperament as someone who is easily fed up with the bullshi
t of everyday life, the hook of the song literally being "I won't shut up.”
Fetch the Bolt Cutters
begins with Fiona Apple being trapped in her own head and complicated past, and progresses towards the unlocking and freeing of some of her most deep seated neurosis and the reckoning that comes with that. A frank, occasionally disturbing, and heart wrenchingly honest discussion of interpersonal relationships within the framework of being in often powerless positions, Apple has crafted the best album of her career. It is dense and emotionally fraught, and requires you to have faith in Apple and her band through the quirkier and more over the top moments, but investing in what they've created here is well worth following until Apple finally finishes the manifesto of Fetch the Bolt Cutters
with "On I go, not toward or away/Up until now it was day, next day/Up until now in a rush to prove/But now I only move to move.” Fiona Apple has no desire to be the instrument of our collective anguish and emotional reconciliation, but goddamn if she isn't a master at making music that is perfect for it.