‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’: Raw, cutting and defiant

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Fiona Apple joins the Watkins Family Hour house band for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited at Lincoln Center's Out of Doors series, August 8, 2015.   Photo by Sachyn Mital in the public domain.

Fiona Apple joins the Watkins Family Hour house band for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series, August 8, 2015. Photo by Sachyn Mital in the public domain.

In some ways, hasn’t Fiona Apple always been here?

It’s been seven years since the excellent “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do,” but the wait was well worth it. Her fifth project, “Fetch The Bolt Cutters,” released this past Friday to critical acclaim, is excellent, haunting and defiant in a way that leaves you feeling everything and yet nothing at all. Not only that, but “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” also stands as a cohesive piece on women, men and self. 

Apple has for a long time been regarded as one of the best songwriters of our time, and that could not be truer here. While she has in the past come across from a more introspective, even vague point of view, she is laser-focused on “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.” There are so many lines that leave you speechless. So many that are poetic and thoughtful and interesting and biting. She is angry here — indignant at the evils of the world. 

Apple’s knack for really getting you in her head and seeing the world through her eyes is beautiful and at times a bit scary. On “Shameika,” you are transported to her childhood, walking with her to school, listening to the ticking clock in class, feeling like an outcast. On “Under the Table,” you are put in this awful dinner party, listening to pencil pushers and ambitious pricks fluff their own feathers. You are every bit as defiant as she is when she sings, “Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up.”

Of course, no one could sing these words but Apple. She is running on all cylinders here, shouting and yelping and humming throughout. This album is primal; it’s hers. The choruses are repeated like mantras, and the outros break down as she returns to the real world. At the same time, the virtuoso is still there. The riffs on songs like the opener “I Want You To Love Me” are strong; they stick in your brain. Cellos and basses give rich undertones and a jazzy feeling to many of the songs. Of course, at the heart of it is still her trademark drums, piano and voice. 

“Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is not just an album, though. It is a cohesive piece of work. It tells the story of Fiona Apple coming to terms with women and men, with herself. She describes being pitted against other women at an early age on “Shameika,” furthering this discussion on “Newspaper.” She encapsulates the worst parts of manliness on “Under the Table” and “Rack of His.” And she viscerally describes some of the most evil acts men commit on “For Her” and “Relay.” In this way, “Ladies” is really the climax of the album, the moment of catharsis and freedom from this. It’s a moment of realization, of solidarity. It’s fresh and free, with Apple humming and lilting back and forth. 

If there is any flaw in this album, it’s that it sometimes leans a bit too heavily on being unpolished. This works to its strength on first listen, but the choruses consisting of a single line 20 times and random dog barks can become annoying or overplayed on repeat listens. 

Still, this album is transcendent. The lyrics are tight, the delivery is raw and the production is driving. While the hype for it may seem a little over the top, this is truly a special experience that everyone should try to engage with. 

Rating: 5/5

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Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.

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