"she implores us to find our own tools"Twitter / Vulture

Forget the Great American Novel – what is the Great Lockdown Album? I am here to tell you that it comes in the form of Fiona Apple’s fifth studio album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Apple has previously claimed to rarely leave her house and recorded the majority of the album at home, inadvertently positioning herself as the perfect creative voice for this period of confinement and isolation. From the instrumentation of the record, it is immediately evident that she is well-acquainted with her surroundings, and by underpinning her narrative with percussive sounds created from anything in her close vicinity, she encourages us all that it is possible to break free from growing feelings of restraint. Her tools are the novel instruments she found lying around her house; on this record, she implores us to find our own tools - our very own ‘bolt cutters’.

Apple’s willingness to tackle both the face-to-face obstacles and systematic discrimination she faces as a woman provides strong foundations to the album’s lyrical depth. However, she truly excels in flipping the script and pointing the camera toward her own responses instead. On ‘Under The Table’, Apple steps up and refuses to comply with impropriety, instead highlighting the importance of allyship in our socially unjust world, all while managing to power over rather loud instrumentation. Immediately we shift to the intense, repetitive, engraining ‘Relay’ where Apple details the complex relationship she has with an abuser and wrestles with the tortuous emotions arising from it. Tracks like this act as raisons d’être for the album, aiming to understand the relationships she has with those who have tried to confine her.

"It is full to the brim with difficult topics and unorthodox production"

If these two songs act as mission statements, then later tracks such as ‘Newspaper’ and ‘Cosmonauts’ act as voyages into outer space, with Apple embarking on an interstellar journey in which she discovers hitherto uncharted territory for singer-songwriters. When Apple roars that she "climbs like beans" on ‘Heavy Balloon’, she is not comparing herself to a haricot bean crop, destined to be packaged into a tin of Heinz – but instead a magic beanstalk, ascending to new heights over intricate and innovative trip hop-esque percussion. Having gained the strength she needs to grow so spectacularly, she bluntly opens up about rape on ‘For Her’. Throughout Fetch The Bolt Cutters, there are more casual references to different forms of aggression, but here she prevents anyone walking away from the record oblivious to its core themes.

On the surface, Apple paints a picture with quite a rocky landscape on this album. It is without a doubt that it is full to the brim with difficult topics and unorthodox production, to the point where more mellow tracks like ‘Rack of His’ and ‘Ladies’ feel out of place. This could be chalked up to a lack of attention to pacing, yet after several explorations of this superficially hostile environment, one starts to question whether Apple even wanted them to fit in comfortably in the first place. In this way, Apple relays to us just how precious moments of optimism and hope can be in a life where negativity often reigns supreme, and how rare the solidarity she croons about (“There’s a dress in the closet / Don’t get rid of it, you’d look good in it”) can be in our lives.

"Apple has crafted both a sonic and lyrical tour de force"

Fetch The Bolt Cutters stands out in Apple’s stellar discography by trading a well-groomed exterior for a much deeper examination of her core philosophy and outlooks on life, in the same manner that The Life of Pablo is a highlight in Kanye West’s discography for its introspection despite its less palatable presentation. Both artists are well-known for their anti-industry speeches at award shows, but the main similarity between these iconoclasts is that they have been pushing their respective genres forward for around two decades now. West previously admitted to drawing a lot of inspiration from Apple and although she has recently expressed disappointment in the controversial figure, it would not surprise me if Pablo had a major influence on the creative direction of this latest album.


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Her choice to produce songs on GarageBand (staying true to the Apple name, of course) and to use the bones of her dead dog as instruments are the sort of outlandish stylistic decisions that are so plentiful on Pablo. She recognises that the listener is simply listening to the “truth over the drums”, as West asserts on his album, and uses this philosophy to carve out a unique auditory experience, dazzling and unpredictable from start to finish. Aside from the fact that the final two songs lack the unabridged passion of ‘Anything We Want’ and ‘Hot Knife’ from her previous album, Apple has crafted both a sonic and lyrical tour de force, boundless in its aspirations. Fetch The Bolt Cutters acts as a beacon of hope for all of us looking for non-ingratiating comfort in a period of frustration.