Album Review: Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

By Keri Johnson, Copy Editor
[Epic; 2020]
Rating: 10/10

Key tracks: All of them?! “Shameika”, “Relay”, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”, “Newspaper”, “Ladies”, “Cosmonauts”, “For Her”

Where to start with Fiona Apple? Well, anywhere ⁠— start here, now, with her new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fetch the Bolt Cutters is classic Fiona Apple. The record is not a come-back or reintroduction; it is Apple’s craft, her voice, and her gift to fans. She’s as strong, confident and honest as ever. 

Fetch the Bolt Cutters feels like a culmination of Apple’s work; everything has been leading up to this. The album marks Apple’s first in eight years, a long-anticipated follow-up to 2012’s The Idler WheelAgainst her label’s wishes, Apple released the album on Friday, April 17. Critics, fans and new listeners praised the album, thanking Apple for the early release.

The album opens with “I Want You to Love Me”. The opening track is quintessential Apple. The song showcases her skills as a vocalist and musician. In an interview with Vulture, Apple said the song was a love song to someone she hadn’t met yet. The tune starts gently but expands into controlled chaos, with a theatrical, abrasive and brave musical expansion that ends in dolphin sounds. All the while, Apple voices her honest desire: “And while I’m in this body, I want somebody to want / And I want, what I want and I want / You to love me”.

The second track, “Shameika”, is classic Apple as well. The song is jazzy, ferocious and catchy. With a chorus that lingers in listeners’ ears “Shemeika said I had potential” will be an earworm for many for the next few months. The song also reflects introspection and the down-to-earth humor that is characteristic of many Apple songs: “Tony told me he described me as pissed off, funny and warm / Sebastian said I’m a good man in a storm”. 

In the title track, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,“ Apple sings, “Fetch the bolt cutters / I’ve been here too long”. According to an article in the New Yorker, the title is a reference to a scene in “The Fall,” the British television show starring Gillian Anderson as a police detective. Anderson’s character says the phrase “after finding a locked door to a room where a girl has been tortured.” 

“Fetch the Bolt Cutters” lyrically reads like Apple’s mini-autobiography. Apple entered the music industry at a young age with her debut album Tidal, released when she was only 18. “I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill / When they came around I would stand real still / A girl can roll her eyes at me and kill / I got the idea I wasn’t real”. Apple also sings about her estrangement from fame and the industry: “I thought being blacklisted would be grist for the mill / Until I realized I’m still here (I’m still here)”. The song ends in a chorus of barking dogs, pets Apple has a known love for. 

“Relay” is a layered, somewhat psychedelic song, reminiscent of “Hot Knife” from her previous album, The Idler Wheel… “Evil is a relay sport, when the one who’s burned, turns to pass the torch / I resent you for being raised right”, Apple sings. The song is as catchy as it is brutally honest; jealousy, trauma and being stuck in a cycle. 

The album is incredibly solid and strong throughout. But “Newspaper” through the last track, “On I Go”, is the meat of the album. 

In the midst of these tracks lies “For Her”. “For Her” may be the best track on the Fetch the Bolt Cutters. The song is perhaps a look into an abusive relationship. “For Her” occurs in almost three acts; it opens with a chorus of Apple’s vocals, as she talks about growing up alongside the figure: “Maybe she spent her formative years / Dealing with his contentious fears”. Then, in the next section, Apple increases the tempo and her lyrics speed by: “You tie everything all pretty in the second act / When you know that it didn’t go exactly like that!” Finally, the third act opens with Apple belting out “Well, good morning”, a repurposing of what might be “Good Morning” from Singin’ in the Rain. Apple proclaims, “Well, good morning! Good morning! / You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in”.

What makes Apple so great is that perhaps she is the strong voice of the voiceless. Maybe this is why her fans seem so dedicated, maybe it’s why she appeals to so many. She is not only honest about her trauma, feelings and experiences ⁠— she is blunt about her power and confidence. She knows that her listeners share her experiences ⁠—and she doesn’t care if others don’t. 

Though you may feel like you’re late to the Fiona Apple game, don’t fret; each of her albums welcome you with open arms. Start with Tidal, where a fresh-faced Fiona draws listeners in with poppy ballads and airy vocals. Or start with The Idler Wheel… and hear Apple roar. In any case, Apple is here in 2020, with the rest of us. Pay your dues and listen to her. In times of uncertainty, Apple serves as a reminder that if she’s alive, eloquent, angry and beautiful, you are too. 

Listen here:

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