Fiona Apple has had an interesting career, the singer-songwriter first came into prominence in the late 90’s with her bold brand of contemporary pop music. In her fifth album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, she leaves all conventions behind — cutting through the chain link fence with gusto. This album is dense, running at almost an hour, with unusual sonic elements and themes that will keep listeners on their toes. Rhythm is the base foundation to most of its tracks, and everything that you can point to a microphone is used as percussion, from household tools to furniture. Harmonic elements are sparse, with only the bass and piano having prominent use. Star of the show is Apple’s ingenious lyricism, each track’s word count could rival a theatrical number or a rap song. She’s been through a lot in her career and she’s not afraid to lay it all down. Knowing her own mind is a major theme, and it delves deep into her frustrations and experiences. The overall result is a unique, whimsical symphony that’s easy to listen to but could take you a while to fully digest.
“I Want You To Love Me” opens up with a flowing piano progression that shifts between classical and boogie-woogie. She acknowledges the good and bad experiences in her career and accepts that at the end of it all she would be gone. In spite of this she knows it isn’t futile : “And I know none of this will matter in the long run / But I know a sound is still a sound around no one”.
“Shameika” is one of those odd memories from childhood where someone says something that sticks with you forever. Apple recounts an encounter with bullying as a kid. She recounts her struggle in trying to fit in, but an old friend of hers cuts her off and tells her she’s better than that: “Shameika said I had potential.”
The title track is a coming-of-age story. Growing up can be harsh for anyone, especially with all the looming expectations and established traditions. “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is about getting yourself out of these society-imposed barriers, and doing your best to find the freedom to live your life.
“Heavy Balloon” meshes tribal rhythms with blues. Apple’s vocals adapts a grittiness that takes you to the Mississippi Delta. It talks about carrying depression on your shoulders: “The bottom begins to feel like the only safe place that you know”. But wraps it up in a quirky yet triumphant declaration of hope and willingness to move forward: “I spread like strawberries / I climb like peas and beans.”
Fetch Me The Bolt Cutters is an achievement in avante garde songwriting. It is the mark of an artist who’s confident in their ability, and is now ready to move into unexplored ground, while sneering at the gatekeepers guarding the way. One line from “Under the table” encompasses this collection pretty well : “Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up”.
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