On April 17th, Fiona Apple dropped the perfect quarantine gift for us all: her first album since her 2012 release. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is filled with rage; it’s uncompromising, free and seamlessly moves through topics spanning from abusive relationships in ‘For Her’ and ‘Newspaper’ to high school experiences in ‘Shameika’. This release illustrates Apple being able to truly make the music she has wanted to make for a long time, eschewing any kind of expectations previously placed on her, stating in the title track that “I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill / Shoes that were not made for running up that hill / And I need to run up that hill, I need to run up that hill / I will, I will, I will, I will, I will”.
Being relatively unfamiliar with the rest of her discography, I came into this album with no existing expectations except the numerous tweets praising it and texts from friends imploring me to listen. So, upon finally listening I was completely lost for words at just how original this record felt. It’s a masterclass in how to use anger constructively. Apple has taken her rage in a controlled and confident manner and woven it into the fabric of Fetch the Bolt Cutters in such a way that none of it is lost. This is by no means and end product of her anger, but a place to illustrate that it is not going to stop her creating. In ‘Under the Table’, she reiterates “Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up”. This becomes a kind of manifesto for the entire record, Apple herself stating in an interview, “Fetch the f****** bolt cutters and get yourself out of the situation that you’re in — whatever it is that you don’t like”.
It is how Apple moves through different topics with such ease, navigating different sources of anger, which make the album so significant. ‘For Her’ eloquently explores the impact sexual assault has had on many women, including herself. Whilst the majority of the lyrics achieve their impact through word play and poetic license, Apple explicitly illustrates the issues at hand, with the lyric “You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in” inserted into the final verse. She stated that her “hope is that maybe some women and men will be able to sing along with that line and allow it to tell the truth for them”. The next song on the record, titled ‘Drumset’, is composed from a voice message Apple sent to her bandmates after they took the drum kit to play another gig, stating that “nothing changed in the lyrics from what I sang into the phone, which is why the lyrics are not very poetic”. It is the immediacy and comic-nature of Apple belting out “The drumset is gone / And the rug it was on / Is still there screaming at me”, which adds to the overall tone of the album. It is honest and the pettiness (in Apple’s own words) of a handful of the lyrics only succeed in making the album more genuine. It has achieved its aim of telling the truth; it’s at times brutally honest and Apple’s raw, often unrefined vocals highlight this. The production is flawless and the decision to include the singer’s laughter from her dog licking her face and her exclamation of “ah, f***, s***” in the middle as she messes up a song, allow for a wholly authentic record.
Despite its dark subject matter, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is an uplifting record, ending in ‘On I Go’, which repeats the lines “On I go, not toward or away / Up until now it was day, next day / Up until now it’s a rush to prove / But now I only move to move”. Fiona Apple implores us all to do the same, to move onwards, to stay angry and to live without the weight of expectations. Demanding numerous listens, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a significant record in these uncertain times and will be for many years to come.