Fiona Apple's 'Fetch the Bolt Cutters' Is 2020's First Perfect Album
Published Apr 17, 2020A new Fiona Apple record is like a hangnail pulled to living flesh, like catching two rabbits jousting and leaping on the front lawn — a moment that shoves you, whether through pain or immense joy, back into the rhythms of life that are always pulsing in the ether. Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Apple's towering fifth album, isn't simply a force of nature or work of genius — it's a celebratory reminder that you're alive. For all the shit we've shovelled her way, it's hard to imagine we deserve Apple's music — it's harder still to imagine how she finds the grace to give it to us.
If 2012's masterful The Idler Wheel… was Apple unchained from expectation, then Fetch the Bolt Cutters finds her free of gravity entirely. It's a vibrantly confrontational and disarmingly joyous record — the itching, minimalist dirges that dotted The Idler Wheel… are almost entirely gone, replaced by thunderous, complex percussion and buoyant melodies. The earth-swallowing "Cosmonauts" climaxes in a wall of sound so suddenly, beautifully enormous that you'll likely need to pause the song.
It's both her most instinctive and most complex record — Apple is following her muse wherever it may take her, incorporating trampolines, strings, keyboards, dogs and all manner of household items into her swirling cacophony. It is never anything less than a staggering feat of arrangement. Apple's genius is partially in how her meticulously constructed, expertly written songs sound as if they're spilling from the folds of her brain and into eternity. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a colossal scaffolding of music — that Apple's air-tight, ageless melodies can support such weight is simply further evidence of their strength.
Apple has said that Fetch the Bolt Cutters is about women — the women she's known, the women she'll never know, the women that make up the entirety of her being. The title track's lyrical reference to "Running Up That Hill" is cosmically fitting — like Kate Bush, Apple is interested in the multitudes of womanhood and the multitudes of human experience; the ways we hurt and forgive each other, the ways we create and destroy. The scope of Fetch the Bolt Cutters' meaning, its infinite feeling, will likely take years to fully absorb. An album like this doesn't come often, and an artist like Apple will never come again — she's given us an invaluable piece of light, a reminder to stay alive and awake and angry and kind.