Singer-songwriter Fiona Apple debuted in the mid ’90s as a teenager, quickly becoming a poster child for Generation X and a mainstay of tabloids for her celebrity romances.
The music video for her 1996 breakout hit “Criminal,” features a partially-clothed Apple in sexually suggestive positions among bottles of alcohol is on many best-of lists.
That video has unjustly influenced many conversations around Apple for decades, seeping into press coverage that presented her as an unwell individual and teenage brat, even when she became a grown woman.
But in her latest album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” Apple shares the wisdom that she gained from nearly 25 years of fame and a lifetime of not fitting in.
The album features an uninhibited Apple dishing on the topics of past relationships, depression and abusers in Hollywood. The album is a potpourri of genres with elements of pop, jazz and hip-hop.
Apple produced most of the album alongside drummer Amy Aileen Wood of the Los Angeles based duo, The Donnies The Amys. Recorded mostly from her home in Venice Beach, California, the soundscape of “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is intimate and unpolished, with dogs barking in the background on various tracks.
Her commanding vocals and Wood’s percussion arrangements, which sound like overturned trash cans because of the unique acoustic setting, are consistent throughout the album’s 13 songs. Apple’s lyrical storytelling is the album’s main attraction, while striking the right balance between the catchy and profound.
The bluesy second track, “Shameika,” features an erratic piano riff while Apple reflects on her youth and ticks through a list of people who have reminded her of her self-worth.
Apple is at her most relatable with “Rack of His” as she looks back on the unreciprocated love she’s given to her exes, singing over a haunting mellotron. She sings, “I followed?you?from room to?room with no attention/ and it wasn’t?because I was bored.”
The album’s themes culminate in the cheery sounding but thematically dark “For Her,” which discusses creepy Hollywood men and rape, Apple said in recent interviews.
The spirit of the #MeToo movement has reshaped perspectives on both the impunity enjoyed by prominent men and the treatment of women in the public eye like Apple, is in the DNA of “For Her”.
“Well, good morning/ Good morning/ You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in,” Apple sings in a devastating twist to the classic tune from “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is a cohesive work of art with a masterfully curated tracklist demonstrating why Apple has remained a towering figure in pop culture despite long periods in between creative output.
From start to finish, without any filler tracks and at less than an hour-long, the album is an easy and enjoyable listen. However, some songs have lengthy outros and many repeated phrases that may cause an uncommitted listener to look at their watch.
Still, it is an accessible album for both Fiona Apple stans and casual music listeners alike because of the sheer number of toe-tappers and quotable lines.
It is clear that Apple used that extra time in between albums to hone in on the sound she was after.
Apple is also likely to find a more receptive audience this time around now that the past wrongs against her are being called out, and the focus of moral panic has moved from Generation X to millennials and Generation Z.
“Fetch the Bolt Cutters” seems like it was crafted precisely for this unprecedented moment when emotions are running high due to social distancing and theCOVID-19 pandemic. After all, the album was crafted in her home, and on the album’s titular track, Apple sings “Fetch the Bolt Cutters/ I’ve been in here too long,” a feeling that many people currently under stay-at-home orders can relate to.
However, the album had been in the works long before the pandemic, with certain songs dating back years, a testament to her enduring relevance as a songwriter. Apple, in true iconoclast fashion, opted to release her album when so many other artists chose to postpone theirs amid the uncertainty in the world.
Having already taken eight years in between albums, it seems Apple was not waiting for herself to be ready so much as she was waiting for the audience to be.