In this day and age, with superficial musical scene once more pervading (“Bieber Fever!”), it almost seems amazing that an album by an artist who reached her peak in the late nineties, and who’s musical genius was often undervalued and underappreciated, to the point that she seemed to virtually disappear from the commercial music scene, would make a comeback in this day and age. Fiona Apple certainly is not your prototype female vocalist and songwriter. She is nothing like J-Lo, Rihanna, Beyonce, or Shakira.
But she is more real.
This is her first album in a long time – since 2005, to be precise.
First of all, the full title of this album is very long, and this is not the first time that Fiona Apple has had such a long title for one of her albums (remember “When the Pawn”? That name is even longer, but this one is quite long in it’s own right. Ready? Here it is:
“The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do”.
Whew. That was a mouthful, right? I will not venture forth to guess upon the meaning of the title. If interested, do some research, look for interviews in magazines or online, or perhaps some YouTube video clip, or so.
The album is fairly diverse collection. At times, there are hints of the semi-alternative tone that she used to be identified with, and at other times, it would seem amazing that she was ever even remotely identified with it. The final song even has a kind of tribal music feel to it. Again, it is diverse, and about the only common chord
“Every Single Night” opens the album up, and it starts off sounding almost sweet and quaint, like a music box ditty (if you ignore the lyrics, that is). But then, it quickly turns darker, and begins to match the lyrics.
“Daredevil” is the first time that you really see the similarities with some of her earlier work utilizing a piano, and more than hints at measure of self-destruction.
With “Valentine” , Apple shows some real poetry with her lyrics.
“I made it to a dinner-date
My teardrops seasoned every plate”
“Valentine” seems to be about loving someone who hardly recognizes her, let alone acknowledges her love, and she feels as if she is living her life through this mysterious other who she loves so, as her lyrics suggest that she’s “a fugitive too dull to flee”.
“Jonathan” is perhaps the most well-orchestrated song on the album (with some trademark Fiona Apple twists), but with a somber kind of feel to it. It, too, is depressing (this is a Fiona Apple album, after all), but it is strangely magnetic, as well.
“Left Alone” has some wonderful wording in the lyrics, as well. I particularly like “I went to work to cultivate a callous”. This song is about her inability to really love with any closeness:
“How can I ask anyone to love me
When all I do is beg to be left ALONE~”
Apple delivers these somber lyrics with her strained, tortured tone.
“Werewolf” offers more amazing lyrics, such as this opening refrain:
“I could liken you to a werewolf,
The way you left me for dead
But I admit
I provided a full moon”
As you may have guessed, this song is about a relationship gone horribly wrong, as additional lyrcs make even clearer:
“And you are such a super guy
Til the second you get a whiff of me”…
“But we can still support each other
All we gotta do is avoid each other
Nothing wrong when
A song ends
In a minor key”
The lyrics here sung more softly, and the piano comes out more pronounced and very clearly, which is, of course, another Apple specialty.
“Periphery” is a bitter song. There’s no other way to describe it, but bitter and angry. This song relies far more exclusively on the piano than most of her other works, and is about another relationship gone bad, as her former lover has left her, for a prettier girl.
“Regret” is a song about – you guessed it – a relationship gone bad. Does anyone get the feeling that Fiona Apple perhaps has had some bad experiences with past relationships? This is a slow and somber song (not the only one on the album), with highly personal lyrics:
“Now, when you look at me, you’re condemned to see
The monster your mother made you to be
And there – you got me – that’s how you got free
You got rid of me”
“Anything We Want” is not quite as depressing perhaps as some of the other songs, seeming a bit more hopeful, or at least reflective of a past that perhaps got away somewhat, but not one filled with remorse and regret, or bitter pain. It is not quite precisely a happy song, to be sure. It also does not have some of the crazy changes of direction that is characteristic of much of Fiona Apple’s music, but is more consistent with it’s rhythm.
Finally, “Hot Knife” is the closing song of the album. As stated earlier, this one sounds more like rhythmic chanting than a typical Apple song, with mostly just a consistent beating of drums serving as the musical backdrop – although there is a bit of the piano, as well, although it seems less prominent somehow in this particular piece. Apple’s voice comes out over the multiple chanting voices that accompany her, and this is probably the most upbeat song on the album. Her lyrics reflect this as well, and also offer the same repetition of the beat:
“If I’m butter, then he’s a hot knife
He makes my heart a cinemascope screen
Showing a dancing bird of paradise”
Not quite the doldrums, pouring her heart out about a failed relationship, or going on about how her heart was broken this time or that time. ‘Hot Knife” is about making sure that she will keep a guy when the opportunity comes around:
“If I get a dance, I’m gonna show him that
He’s never gonna need another
Never need another”
Thus, Fiona Apple closes a mostly sad, reflective album with an upbeat and hopeful song placed right at the end.
All in all, this is a good album, as Fiona Apple shows off her trademark musical ingenuity, her true gift for songwriting, and her strong lyrical abilities. She can certainly make a connection, as her devoted cult following shows. Not many people can get a movement to back them, asking the record industry to free her, but Fiona Apple can boast that much.
This album is a reward for them, and will surely be appreciated for those starving to hear Fiona Apple after such a long absence.