The only way to make “fetch” happen is with bolt cutters
Some things in the world can always be counted on: new seasons from the Real Housewives franchise, more self-help books written by celebrities and that rent will continue to rise disproportionately to wages. Fiona Apple staying unapologetically true to her eclectic songwriting and singing style is one of those things, in the most glorious and comforting way.
The arrival of her sophomore album When The Pawn… put Apple on the map with some of the best alternative pop music of its time. Songs like “Paper Bag” got some serious radio play, and just about every pre-teen girl knew the lyrics by heart. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is just as much a powerhouse of an album, equally anthemic and even more unhinged.
Apple’s fifth solo album was recorded in her Venice Beach home where the walls, floors and her dogs each make their entrances throughout the album. Apple has always had a way with words, and there is quite a bit of content to unpack throughout the album as she sings on topics ranging from love to bullying and toxic masculinity. It’s a journey through Apple’s youth, from recognizing her potential in “Shameika” to wanting to fit in with the rest of the “Ladies,” to not wanting to be confined in “Under the Table,” and resolving with “On I Go,” propelling her forward as she strives to resolve the past.
The opening track, “I Want You to Love Me” initially brings to mind a Cheap Trick cover, but instead starts as a soft ballad with arpeggiated piano, her vocals growing stronger and filling her throat as it carries on. She pleads for someone to love her, singing prolonged notes until she’s completely out of breath, portraying her desperation. Her scat-inspired lyrics seem to defy time in the title track “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.” The song reads like a diary entry, as she shares about being bullied and intimidated by “it girls.” “Fetch the bolt cutters/ I’ve been here too long,” she says, showing that she’s ready to break free as dogs bark in the background.
“Under The Table” is both humorous and powerful as she sings that she “won’t shut up” at a stuffy dinner party she didn’t even want to attend. “Rack of His” paints a picture of her ex-boyfriend, his rack of guitars more important than their relationship. “Cosmonauts” is another powerful song about the desperation she feels in love, “when you resist me, hon, I cease to exist/ because I only like the way I look, when I look into your eyes.” This reflects her willingness to love another so deeply that she loses sight of her own value and beauty if her lover is not around to see it. “For Her” features a hair-raising, ethereal vocal harmony at the end of the song, in contrast to chilling lyrics about toxic masculinity like, “well, good morning, good morning/ you raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in.”
Fiona Apple’s lyrics are the true star of each song, cutting down her past lovers and so-called friends. Her voice is one of the most unique and versatile out there, ranging from whispering to belting when appropriate. She builds her sound from the ground up, as percussion is the driving factor in most songs and is often quite experimental and the rhythm is challenging to pin down. While many of the songs are heavy in content and not exactly easy to sing along to, they beg the attention of the listener throughout the album. Apple, with bolt cutters in hand, is breaking free and allowing this album to be unapologetically herself.