Album Review: Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

By Live4ever - Posted on 27 Apr 2020 at 8:04am

Fetch The Boltcutters

Most established artists are permitted some kind of token radicalism.

Whether it’s the plight of the Nepalese, the orangutan’s loss of natural habit or global warming, they’re not afraid to express their shock and anger that practice x is still taking place in a supposedly civilised world. We tolerate this vanity because we love our stars, despite the obvious positions of privilege they harbour them in. We know that their outrage is not ours, but we forgive them.

Fiona Apple, however, represents something profoundly different: the daughter of a former Broadway actress, she grew up in Manhattan, later moving to California before she was discovered miraculously after throwing a few songs together on a first demo tape. Released in 1996, her debut album Tidal sold almost three million copies in the post Jagged Little Pill-era, and a seventeen year old Apple was thrust into a limelight in which her complicated and sometimes abrasive manner was cynically used as a marketing tool.

Her relationship with the outside world had good reason to be vexed: as a twelve-year-old she’d been raped on the stairwell of her New York apartment building and, decades before the #MeToo movement found a voice for women traumatised by abuse, she struggled to be understood or empathised with. At the 1997 MTV Music Awards she assailed the crowd, spitting out ,“this world is bulls**t’, one of a number of career-intolerant public outbursts.

Now older but wiser only on her own terms, Fetch The Bolt Cutters is the singer’s fifth album, recorded at her home in Venice Beach. Completely unfiltered, it is a body of work that combines soul baring honesty with a raucous power for musical invention and scalpel-edged lyricism.

Often here songs are collaged. Sometimes there seems to be more than one going on at the same time, the first 30 seconds of opener I Want You To Love Me with snippets of jazz, hip-hop and a looped piano, all before Apple’s hazed, sweet-but-hot voice kicks in. More than once she stops singing mid-tune to deliver an aside, the title-track more poem than verse, while Under The Table – a glance at her own notoriety for outspokenness – is a stomping, bluesy piano-rama.

There is an intensity of subject matter here which Apple purposely sets out in places where it can’t be ignored; on For Her she skewers listeners with, ‘Good mornin’! Good mornin’/You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in’, while Relay’s chanted chorus, ‘Evil is a relay sport/When the one whose burned turns to pass the torch’, sees condemnation, pity and anger all fusing into one bruised emotional tourniquet.

Stark, uncomfortable, at times bleakly funny, Fiona Apple’s tirades and cajolements force you to look and listen in ways almost no other writer has employed in recent years. The term remarkable is so over applied in entertainment criticism that it’s long forfeited any meaning. Nevertheless, Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a remarkable album. It will confirm your prejudices or confront your perceptions, but it will not leave you without an opinion.

In a world where music is gradually slipping into algorithmically damned nothingness this is a cause for celebration, whether its zeroed-in meta finds you as the hunter or the hunted.


Andy Peterson

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