Ever since the lush Pacific Northwest green of my July wanderings, I’ve been listening over and over to the new Fiona Apple record, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. I’ve been rolling it around in my head trying to get a handle on it, prodding at it, letting it prod back at me (sometimes fiercely).
What I hear when I listen to this record is a ragged bravery, a loose-knuckled grip on any sort of stability, and a gorgeous musical honesty. It’s a complicated, outstanding record.
Werewolf – Fiona Apple
Fiona wheels and rages and turns her scalpel alternately fiercely in on herself and outward on a lover (who she calls out by name, more than once). It feels much more raw and bloody than previous records, as she continues to push forward with letting classical prettiness go. I think that notion alone deserves a slow clap, in a society that tends to prefer our ladyfolk a bit more decorous and docile.
We have brave record here, in that it feels like an unpolished diary, both in the complicated, personal (sometimes ugly) words and in the intimacy of the sonic arrangements – lots of space in the room, ambient noises, sound effects like screams and hands that patter in a rapid heartbeat. These melodies are intricate and minor and each song seems to hold the seeds of a few dozen others. I think her mind is constantly spiraling, and I get that, and I love it. Fiona and her touring drummer recorded this record together, and presented it complete to Epic executives, who didn’t know she was working on anything. It feels completely un-fucked-with, which is a welcome trait, and the record breathes so hot and close and real to the listener that it almost makes me squirmy.
I find it tremendously freeing the way that Fiona is increasingly unafraid to make bold-faced, unflinching vocal statements on this record, letting her voice go ragged and voracious and not-at-all pretty, like on “Daredevil”: “Wake me up / gimme gimme gimme what you got in your mind / in the middle of the night…” YES. You can hear her ravenous hunger, like a blast of scorching dry wind from her mind and gut. She says exactly what she means with a poet’s acumen and the playfulness of an immense, alliterative vocabulary.
I find this record continually challenging, continually interesting to listen to, and a deeply enjoyable (if wild) sonic ride. I’m in, and I find myself strangely proud of her for making something so tremendous out of all the bloody detritus of struggle.