Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel

September 4th, 2012 Posted by Featured, Music No Comment yet

Words by James McBride

Fiona Apple’s latest release, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is a delirious tour de force. Seven years in the making, Idler Wheel takes us on a unapologetic, winding tour of the labyrinthine corridors of the reclusive artist’s mind. The first single and opening track, Every Single Night, sets the album’s thematic tone: “Every single night’s a fight/ with my brain.” Despite being filled with such confessions (“How can I ask anyone to love me/ when all I do is beg to be left alone?” she sings in Left Alone) she manages to convey a hard-won wisdom rather than self-pity. And the rollicking finale, Hot Knife, bursts with sheer sexuality and intricate musicality.

But the emotional heart of Idler Wheel beats in Anything We Want, a defiant but tender love song that embraces all the complexities and contradictions that define Apple’s artistic output. Sonically, the signature style that she develops over the course of the album reaches a cathartic zenith – the syncopated, schizophrenic percussion underpinning multi-layered piano harmonies, topped by that voice at once so fluttering and forceful. The lyrics, meanwhile, embody her habitual brokenness and self-loathing while simultaneously asserting – triumphantly, even joyfully – that if love can’t fix these things, it can at least render them irrelevant.

In Anything We Want, imperfections have become the inspiration for love, not a hindrance. Her scars make her a “neon zebra” whose contours are the “places that I wanted you to kiss me.” Its an image both psychedelic and startlingly sensual. Elsewhere in the song, with a charmingly self-aware naivete, she draws on the ambiguous innocence of childhood: “Lets pretend that we’re eight years old, playin’ hooky”. But once the children grow up, their love becomes a protective alliance: “We try not to let those bastards get us down.” Though one gets the feeling that “those bastards” mostly consist of her own demons, it is precisely her unflinching investigation of her own dark corners that give Fiona and the album itself its impressive power. Both are utter triumphs.

We recommend you buy the whole thing here. See her live too.

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