Fetch The Bolt Cutters is intense, bold and brash: a farrago of frantic descending keys, drum kits falling down stairs and an assortment of random beeps, bleeps, percussion and the occasional bark (five dogs are credited on this album).
Through all this chaos we are guided by the charismatic snarl of Fiona Apple. This is her account of a deeply flawed LA and beyond, and she charts her course as if in a Raymond Chandler novel. Her wit and charisma is what holds it all together, with quip after Marlowesque quip reflecting on Apple’s relationships with men, power and success.
It’s a piano album, but one with an emphasis on percussion, and drawing percussive patterns in interesting ways. There’s a touch of the avant-garde about this, as on the opening track ‘I Want You To Love Me’ culminating in a series of bizarre vocal mewls. It’s absurd and sounds like ‘Mindtrain’ by Yoko Ono and all the weirdness that entails, and that is a description you can apply to the album as a whole.
Yet beneath the dadaism these songs are tales of the mundane, of everyday life and frustrations, and a fixation with the minor details that’d make Jerry Seinfeld blush. ‘Shameika’ is an example – a song that centres around an off-hand compliment someone paid Apple years ago. “Shameika said I had potential / She wasn’t my friend but she got through to me / And I’ll never see her again.” It’s such a tiny detail, yet somehow forms the germ of such creative bloom.
Apple regales us with tales of suburban dread, including killing the mood at a nightmare dinner party (‘Under the Table’) and how sex with musicians isn’t always all that, as on ‘Rack Of His’ (“Check out that rack of his, look at that row of guitar necks…I thought you would wail on me like you wail on them.”)
Fiona’s honeyed rasp is unique, and has greater focus on how the words feel than how they fit into structures. If Tom Waits wrote for Bojack Horseman, it would read like this. Funny, sharp, and only just warding off the creep of existential despair. It’s heady but hilarious.