By Ashley Evers
Grappling feelings similar to those of Christmas morning, I opened my streaming page promptly at midnight, kindred to the countless nights I would stealthy listen to releases past my bedtime growing up. Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters was created entirely from the comfort of where the majority of us will remain for the next few months: at home. Apple opened her third eye to produce the perfect isolation project for those nights spent yearning and staring at the walls, which many agree could not have come at a better time.
Just shy of a decade after 2012’s The Idler Wheel, Apple uses her own mind as a theme for the intimate, pocket-spilling hope present on her April 17, 2020 release, which provides spooky yet individualistic comfort for all ages. The collection highlights authenticity and beauty with its small production and odd-speaking rhythms which fabricate a creative dialogue between Apple and her inner psyche.
Album opener, “I Want You To Love Me,” starts slow with a personal acceptance of peace as she folds through past relationships. Apple draws on themes from “Extraordinary Machine” where she also reflects on accepting the not-so-pretty parts of her existence. The dolphin call is a fitting touch that notifies listeners of the stochasticity they should expect for the duration of this project and makes it clear she sings to those who use her music, and not to those who abuse it with the line, “And I want you to use it, blast the music / Bang it, bite it, bruise it.”
Middle school memories come full circle in “Shameika,” named after a girl from Apple’s youth who muttered words to her which resonate as she recalls the hardships surrounding making friendships. This repeated affirmation “Shameika said I had potential” is met with layered piano chords and rhythmic chanting. Shameika has spoken, and I believe she was right!
“Fetch The Bolt Cutters” offers a mellow tempo and a thought-provoking first verse that stimulates listeners to imagine the multitude of scenarios Apple introduces as she sings, “I’ve been thinking about when I was trying to be your friend / I thought it was then, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t genuine.” The poetry present in this title track demonstrates how injurious the media can be on one’s self-image, while the content itself focuses on breaking free from the prison humans create for themselves. Apple also alludes to Kate Bush, with whom she shows great admiration for as one of her early music heroes. The anthem “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” also symbolizes a desire for freedom from harm, similar to Apple craving escapism from the big shoes she was expected to fill at a young age.
Apple’s badass ethos is reintroduced in the edgy “Under The Table” where she is displeased with the commentary of elite dinner party attendees. The simple and catchy composition gives the song an iconic nature and shareability to prove that Apple will not be silenced. She sharply narrates, “Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up,” and lets her art speak for itself.
Driving tribal drums establish an upbeat arrangement in “Relay” that prompt rhythms from 2012’s “Hot Knife.” Apple uses a metaphorical title to criticize our society, which she views as constantly in competition with one another. The outro is worth noting with its seemingly out of place acapella and soft hymns that abruptly transition to more raving percussion in “Rack Of His.” This track offers multiple anthems in one as Apple reflects on feeling inferior in a relationship that consumes a copious amount of energy.
Apple proves anger does not have to be destructive as she expresses both vexation and empathy in “Newspaper.” As an ode to women who have experienced abuse, she sings “I watch him let go of your hand, I wanna stand between you / But it’s not what I’m supposed to do.” The notion that those who remain oppressed may never come close to coming out on top aids as a genius precursor for “Ladies,” the lightest track on the project that also features vocals from Apple’s sister, Maude. “Heavy Balloon” employs imagery of a balloon floating through the air yet still getting dragged down. Varied percussion patterns continue to feed the mania into the defiant “Cosmonauts,” which features ascending rhythms conveying vulnerability and out-of-body experiences when battling the thoughts that arise from unnatural, monogamous relationships.
The most difficult song for Apple to complete, “For Her,” is both blunt and pronounced. With a hard-hitting message and a devastating bridge full of rage, as hard as it can be to conquer visceral songwriting, Apple discovers it can be just as challenging to discuss the struggles of other women as it is to unpack her own. The iron weight is lifted in the final “On I Go,” where Apple speaks on how meaningless the idea of time is, and proclaims she will act when she wants and as she wants.
A project stacked with punchy one-liners that is both profound and timeless, Apple’s lyrics are descriptive yet not overbearing—similar to an addictive novel that is impossible to put down. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is both chaos and complexity matched with growth and resilience. The music community is overjoyed to hear from Apple again, in a letter addressed to all, as she plays her own game and wins by a long-shot.