Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a very good album. In fact, it’s great. If you are going to listen to one album during quarantine, it should be Fiona Apple’s latest release.
The album is cacophonous. Recorded largely in Apple’s home, there are dogs barking and uneven breathing. Genuine, unfiltered music is hard to come by these days. Not to say that studio production makes music worse, but there’s something unique about the choice to forgo that for something more down-to-earth. Syncopated rhythms and echoing vocals contribute to the sense of realism and intensely personal music.
Percussion takes center stage in this album. Alongside intense lyricism, it sounds almost like spoken word poetry. But Apple’s blend of soft piano and compelling baselines make it a true masterpiece.
The snare and cymbal beats on “Ladies” seem to match with a heartbeat: slow and steady. Or maybe it’s the other way around: Your heartbeat falls in sync with the song; its symphony sweeping you away. When the bass and piano combine with Apple’s rhythmic, chant-like recitation of her lyrics, the song sounds almost like R&B. Apple’s wavering voice showcases her passion and her talent.
Not only are Apple’s arrangements raw and unedited, but her words are too. Language has always been the strongest element of her music. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is no different. Upon first listen, it seems to almost be written as a stream of consciousness. However, it’s clear with a more in-depth listen that everything about this album is deliberate. It’s still wild and free flowing, but intentionally so. In each song, different facets of Apple’s personality are revealed.
The tenth song on the album, “Cosmonauts,” centers around monogamy (or rather, the implausibility of monogamy). Issues of self-worth also present themselves, with the line “When you resist me, hon', I cease to exist / Because I only like the way I look when looking through your eyes.” Apple’s ability to weave complex emotions with beautiful music is unmatched. The backing vocals in the chorus lend an ethereal quality to the song, repeating the outer space motif found in the lyrics.
“Under The Table” is a defiant song about a dinner party gone wrong. In it, Apple repeats the mantra of “Kick me under the table all you want / I won't shut up, I won't shut up.” This is a woman who has been put down before. She has held her tongue and followed the rules, and she’s tired of it. She won’t let social mores or perceptions of politeness hold her back.
Political commentary has never scared Apple. In 1997, while accepting MTV’s Best New Artist in a Video, she quoted Maya Angelou and said rather blatantly that “the world is bullshit.” She was right then, and she’s still right now. The world is bullshit. Fetch The Bolt Cutters acts as a sort of culmination of her defiance.
This album, she told Vulture, is about “breaking out of whatever prison you’ve allowed yourself to live in, whether you built that prison for yourself or whether it was built around you and you just accepted it.”
Fetch The Bolt Cutters is real and raw and empowering. It’s an album about freedom, and an absolutely necessary one.