thu 25/07/2024

CD: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

CD: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

Cult singer-songwriter's fourth album takes comfort in its claustrophobia

Return of the reclusive, frustrating, challenging Fiona Apple

When your albums tend to drop into a frenzy of anticipation after gaps of six or seven years, the creation of a certain mythology becomes inevitable.

So much has been written in certain circles about Fiona Apple since the release of 2005’s Extraordinary Machine - an album which itself seemed certain to never see the light of day at one point - that it has become impossible to distinguish the music from the character - reclusive, frustrating, challenging.

And yet the opening track to Apple’s fourth album (its poetic full title - The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do - may not be her longest, but remains unlikely to top any typeset columns) finds the artist in playful mode, to a given definition of playful at least. Tangled in a mess of lyrics that call for hours of puzzling over and unwrapping it may be, but “Every Single Night” is set to the sort of instrumentation that wouldn’t seem out of place in a child’s nursery. “I just want to feel everything", Apple asks of her troublesome brain; but the slight skip in her vocal acrobatics betrays an idea she is trying on for size in a darkened room before committing herself.

Not that Apple, on this work or any other, has ever been one to shy away from the messier parts of human emotion. Her wordplay may be complex, but the metaphors she employs are stunningly effective. “Say I’m an airplane,” she muses at one point, “and the gashes I got from my heartbreak make the slots and the flaps upon my wing and I use them to give me lift.” Or “just tolerate my little fist tugging on your forest chest”. It’s the sort of album that begs for presence of a lyric sheet, a lazy Sunday afternoon spent lying in the half-light of your bedroom window with the headphones on and a pen circling the bits that nobody else ever seems to get.

There’s hope here for the angsty girls that never grew up. Hope - and relief, that you can be approaching your mid-thirties and still spout forth non-sequiturs about love and sex and death and pain in the privacy of your own bedroom the way you always did. If you can do so while setting your music to anything from children’s screams to the sound of a machine running at a bottle-making factory, and have it sound comforting in its claustrophobia, so much the better.

Watch Fiona Apple co-star with an octopus in the bizarre video for "Every Single Night"


I feel the comment 'there's hope here for the angsty girls that never grew up' is quite degrading. Teenage girls can't always articulate their feelings, something which Fiona Apple does very well. It is a bit unfortunate that a woman can't do what she loves nowadays without somebody somewhere having a put down already lined up. It is a bit like an angry woman whose anger is always blamed on her PMS. I suspect, however, that music is a by-product of actual emotion, which she would probably create whether you listened to it or not. I am refreshed by an artist who actually feels what she's sings about and isn't governed by a need to sell, which is why we have a serious lack of any real, popular talent.

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