‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ Album Review
By James Wetmore, Contributor
When I decided to review this album, I did not know what I was getting into. Most of what I know of Fiona Apple’s music is from her 1996 debut album Tidal, which was experimental and artsy, but nothing too radical. Then I listened to her new album, and my goodness this whole thing is just one big trip. From the first few songs your idea of experimental music is flipped, stretched, and torn apart, then covered in a thick wall of kind of weird.
Instrumentation on this record is for the most part sparse, with most of the songs based around a duo of vocals and percussion with the odd piano or keys thrown in there. Something about the whole thing feels wrong, for lack of a better term, as you can easily feel disorientated with constant interwoven layers of vocals and odd percussions thrown at you from every angle.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters feels like a companion piece to the current quarantine taking place, as many people are wanting to get back to normal and break free of the chains holding them at home. Lyrically the album explores a similar theme of liberation, the title reflecting that one should fetch their own tool of liberation and break free from whatever it may be that is holding them back. The songs on this album reveal that Fiona Apple’s restraints come from past bullying, sexual assault, romantic debacles, amid many other themes that are beautifully paired with the hectic music that carries them.
Songs like “Newspaper” and “Relay” display Apple’s amazing use of her voice, channeling Stevie Nicks as she delivers lines such as “I resent you for being raised right, I resent you for being tall, I resent you for never getting in any opposition at all, I resent you for having each other,” and “I too, used to want him to be proud of me, and then I just wanted him to make amends, I wonder what lies he’s told you about me, to make sure that we’ll never be friends.” The layers upon layers of vocals on most of these tracks hammer in the distorted and confused mind frame that one would be in if they were being controlled by a partner, always being told what to think or what to do.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters is raw, rough, potentially even unfinished sounding, but that just adds to the aggression that Fiona Apple is trying to push—wanting you to feel uncomfortable or caught off guard. It’s hypnotic how the songs weave from one idea to the next, never losing your attention but never fully giving itself away, always keeping you on your toes. I do not understand how you can make a song sound so tribal yet sound like it would fit right in at cheer practice. It is all the right kinds of weird.