The artistic and creative trajectory of Fiona Apple was not one you could’ve predicted back in 1996 when she released her debut LP Tidal. Apple certainly showed talent and flair, as well as a knack for writing great hooks. But once she fell into the whole Largo crowd, began her fruitful collaboration with producer/music wizard Jon Brion, and let herself follow the muse, Fiona Apple blossomed like some quirky, enigmatic flower you’d find at the bottom of the ocean. Or on another planet.
With Apple it’s more about quality than quantity, hence in her 24-year career there have been only five albums. But what a group of albums they’ve been; Tidal, When The Pawn…, Extraordinary Machine, The Idler Wheel, and now her newest Fetch The Bolt Cutters. Each record showed a significant progression from the other, adding just a bit more of Apple’s internal world and labyrinthine word puzzles. Her singer-songwriter beginnings morphed into a singular, one-of-a-kind writer. She’s definitely more Tom Waits than Carole King.
Fetch The Bolt Cutters is her boldest record yet, taking the wild and woolly vibes of The Idler Wheel and combining them with Apple’s longstanding pop songwriting flair. The results are a masterful pop record for the end times.
From the barroom stomp of “I Want You To Love Me” to the Little Richard apocalypse boogie of “Shameika” Apple sounds as in control and locked in as she does unhinged. Title track “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is just as much a beat poetry track put to dreamy jazz as it is a Fiona track. “Relay” puts me in mind of Merrill Garbus’ tUnE-yArDs project. A tribal stomp of fire and fury.
Much of this record feels like it was made with rocks, cans, handmade percussion, and a plethora of post-apocalyptic instrumentation. There’s a looseness here that feels invigorating in these mask-wearing times.
All of those amazing quirks and writing chops that we fell for almost a quarter century ago are still very much intact, but there’s sort of a raw nerve energy here now. Not wanting or caring about being the next great sultry pop siren, Apple has long been free to lock into the nervous energy she has long carried with her and use it like a superpower. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is the most Fiona Apple album Fiona Apple has made yet. It’s unhinged, unruly, and wonderful every second of it.
8.7 out of 10