Album #249: Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin:
  • New York City, USA
  • Label: Epic/Clean Slate
  • Best Track: Heavy Balloon

I listened to Fetch the Bolt Cutters on the day it was released in April. I could tell it was a bit special, which has actually made it a daunting album to review.

From memory, there were a few good albums out that Friday, so I prioritised others at first. I try to avoid reading reviews of albums before writing my own, but I couldn’t ignore the feverish acclaim Fiona Apple’s fifth album was getting. By May, it was reported that it had become the highest-rated album ever on review aggregator Metacritic. You could say that makes it the most critically acclaimed album of all time and, by extension, the “best”.

So the longer I’ve left it, the more trepidation I’ve felt about reviewing Apple’s first album in eight years. Much as I’d love to have the time and space to sit and give albums my undivided attention, the reality is I listen to music and write this blog around a full-time job, a young daughter and other family commitments, and it shows in some of my vague and under-researched reviews! It doesn’t help that I’ve never listened to much else from Apple either.

So, I’m going to keep it fairly brief. There’s plenty been written elsewhere about this album, and I’ll only torment myself if I try to come out with some sort of earth-shattering analysis of the album. Lyrically, it’s phenomenal – there are so many clever turns of phrase, some of them just like make you nod in agreement (“Evil is a relay sport when the one who’s burned turns to pass the torch”) while others make you wince (“Good morning, good morning, you raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in”).

Musically, it’s kind of minimalist, with a lot of hand clapping and foot stomping making its way into the percussion. Much of it was recorded in Apple’s house and that comes across in the acoustics of songs like ‘Under the Table’, ‘Relay’ and my pick of the tracks ‘Heavy Balloon’.

I think part of why this album is so highly rated is because it’s so universal in its appeal. It has pop, indie, rock and soul cred. I’ve said before on here that I generally hate pianos mixing with guitars, but not so on this record. It works!

Best album ever? Not for me, but I can understand why someone might think it is.

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