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FIONA APPLE Fetch The Bolt Cutters gets 9/10


Fiona Apple

Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Epic/Sony

9/10

On Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple embraces the resentment, hostility and anger in her heart. She develops a final product that doesn’t just reveal to us the Fiona Apple we have always known, but the Fiona Apple that has silently existed behind the sweetness, spite and more conventional approach of her early works. It also features a healthy dose of the black humour previously only hinted at on tracks such as Limp, Hot Knife and Fast As You Can.

Apple embraced this direction through her implementation of an at home, off the wall production style, favouring unconventional drumming, blemished piano and an overall simplified approach to instrumentation across the board. This production style strips down the barriers between her and the audience, allowing us to witness Apple in her most raw and honest form to date, while also creating a wholly original sound that is unique to her acclaimed discography.

At times the home studio setting leads to certain songs feeling underdeveloped. This production style, paired with her consistently great lyricism, can act as replacement for a strong, cohesive song. Relay’s hook would make for a great moment on the track, but ends up just being the song itself. Occurrences like this, where Apple forms great ideas that can be better than their final execution, illustrates the only real flaw of the album. But what great ideas they are.

Fetch The Bolt Cutters is at its best when Apple makes use of her more unusual and experimental instrumentation and style to support more focused songwriting. This is seen right off the bat in the opening tracks I Want You To Love Me and Shameika. The stylish-yet-bleak piano line on I Want You To Love Me emphasises her chaotic reflection on her romantic history with the subject on the track, whilst also highlighting the inability to fight against the passing of time and that which has happened in the past, good or bad. It all culminates in a chaotic final 15 seconds that delivers perhaps the album’s only compelling outro.

This gracefully transition into Shameika, with a sped-up version of the same piano line, emphasises a change in tone and direction as Apple recounts a story of her tough time forming friendships and dealing with bullies in her childhood years. The song explores how she ultimately finds solace in a friend who told her she “had potential” in the chorus hook, suggesting she gained great confidence from this. The song plays out like a blurred childhood memory, with Apple stating in regards to Shameika that “when I first wrote the song, I wasn’t entirely sure she existed”.

Indeed, Fetch The Bolt Cutters contains some of Apple’s best songs to date. The wry humour of Under the Table feels like a perfect anthem for the post #metoo generation, as she smarts: “Kick me under the table all you want/ I won’t shut up”. The experimental drumming and instantly catchy piano line on Rack of His make for one of the best potential singles on the album and a well-needed spot of levity. The eerie and atmospheric atmosphere created by the harmonies and bassline on Newspaper would feel at home on a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds release, and features some of the best lyricism on the album, discussing how private pain can make us feel connected and isolated with the song acting as the “witness” she never had.

And while the final tracks sometimes come across as underdeveloped sketches, despite the same great lyricism and performances, For Her acts as a finale of sorts, ahead of the coda of Drumset and On I Go. Its largely a cappella arrangement features the album’s most brutally evocative lyrics, including “Maybe she spent her formative years/ Dealing with his contentious fears” and notably “Good morning, good morning/ You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in”. Moments like this, once heard, will never be forgetten. They ensure Fetch The Bolt Cutters is and will remain one of the most talked about albums of the year, if not the decade.

If the ideas across all 13 of the tracks on her longest album to date were further developed into a more cohesive whole, it could have been her masterpiece. It’s still a very impressive record which has great ideas, interesting production, fantastic lyricism and incredible performances, along with some of Apple’s best songs to date, but a few things hold it back. A lack of consistency and underdeveloped ideas means her best album may yet still be to come, a tantalising thought in and of itself.

HUGH HOGAN

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