Release Date: Jun 19, 2012
Record label: Epic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
A Fiona Apple record is a study in meticulousness and mayhem. The meticulousness is in the music – the rigorous art-pop constructions that mark Apple as an heir to songwriting sophisticates like Stephen Sondheim and Elvis Costello. And the mayhem? That's Apple herself. For a decade and a half she has been one of pop's most volatile presences: pouting, lamenting, raging, jabbing a poison pen at ruthless fate and callous ex-lovers, but always turning her most savage attacks inward, at herself.
You can’t half-listen to a Fiona Apple album. You really have to work at it, analyzing the elliptical lyrics, carefully following piano runs that zig when you think they’ll zag. Her fourth full-length, which is called (deep breath!) The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is no exception.
There’s really a limit to the amount of distress one can take. To which the page becomes the disclosure of the soul that is transferred to it. Some communicate it more quickly with a scorching impulse while others are careful to sketch every single detail with the purpose of contemplating the bigger picture, thus, to get a better understanding on things.
Review Summary: "Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key." Idler wheel (noun): 1. A wheel, gear, or roller used to transfer motion or to guide or support something.Fiona Apple doesn’t so much write albums as she does give birth to them, expunging the songs out of herself in a sea of self-flagellation, venom and red, red, red. The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do was a tougher germination than most, coming seven years off of the studio fiasco that produced the strangely ebullient, jazzy Extraordinary Machine, and it shows – nothing on this record comes easy.
Since her 1996 debut Tidal, Fiona Apple has split her time between playing the little girl lost and the woman scorned—alternately struggling for freedom from lousy lovers and childhood horrors. On the epically titled The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, her first album in seven years, Apple is back to fighting the enemy within, expelling the tangled cacophony of her demons into song. The result is a dazzling 10 track song cycle.
So much of the drama surrounding Fiona Apple's third album, Extraordinary Machine, focused on its recording and release -- how the original Jon Brion productions were scrapped in favor of new versions helmed by Mike Elizondo, all fueling fan panic and an Internet protest pleading for a free Fiona -- that ultimately all the clamor obscured Apple herself, both her songs and performances. She runs no such risk on The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, her fourth album, arriving some seven years after Extraordinary Machine. Alone with her voice, piano, and percussionist Charley Drayton, Apple has nowhere to hide, nor does she give any indication she'd prefer to run.
Fiona Apple is all about control: gaining, losing, regaining, relinquishing, feigning, being in and totally and completely out of it. Each of her previous albums has seen at least one pivotal battle of control: agency over her own 20-year-old body in the music video for “Criminal”, reclaiming her identity after a particularly unflattering profile in a magazine by writing a 90-word poem as her album title, and not-so-gracefully deciding who would produce her third LP, Extraordinary Machine. On the opening track of her fourth LP, “Every Single Night”, still envisioning herself as a kind of machine, she sings, “My heart’s made of parts of all that’s around me/ And that’s why the devil just can’t get around me.
True, you won't be surprised to hear that The Idler Wheel..., the latest record from Fiona Apple, is a deeply personal record about heartbreak and loss. Heartbreak and loss have been, after all, her stock and trade over her previous three albums and her nearly 20-year career. This record is not, however, just another Fiona Apple album. It's not only a vast improvement upon its predecessor, 2005's Extraordinary Machine, but it also pushes the lovelorn ground she's already covered further.
Perhaps the most defining moment in Fiona Apple’s career is the video for “Criminal” and the ensuing controversy over its “heroin chic” aesthetic. The clip, directed by Mark Romanek, showed Apple and various scantily clad models writhing around in a wood-paneled basement, looking like the most louche teenage orgy ever. As the video entered heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 and made Apple a star, the singer/songwriter—who was only then just out of her teens—divorced herself from the clip and decried it as exploitive and embarrassing.
Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel...[Epic; 2012]By Brendan Frank; June 27, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAssuming a forty hour workweek, six weeks vacation plus a week’s worth of sick days per year, two years of downtime after Extraordinary Machine, and a six month gap between mastering and release, it took Fiona Apple an average of over 179 hours and twenty minutes to produce a single minute of music on The Idler Wheel. It represents the longest gap between studio releases in her already spasmodic career. But as the record’s earthy, stripped-down sounds creep through your skull, you’ll quickly see where all of that time has gone.
As the full title of Fiona Apple's fourth album implies, 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 challenging proposition. It features chimes, playground screams and tribal drum motifs, while her trademark piano can sound as if it is being hurled down the proverbial flight of stairs. And yet, the askew, jazzy, playful melodies lead the way to songs of gripping candour and emotion.
“The thing that scares me most is Tumblr… Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments. It just kills me. Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things.
FIONA APPLE plays Sound Academy July 4. See listing. Rating: NNNN Some of us cynics doubted the buzz surrounding Fiona Apple's first album in seven years. It seemed so long since she was culturally relevant, and 90s nostalgia is something we should all be suspicious of. Thankfully, Apple's return ….
Every interview Fiona Apple gives and every song she writes is like her personal social-networking feed: a candid, unfiltered reflection of what she’s chosen to share publicly at that instant, without much in the way of forethought or consideration of repercussions. Indicative of this are Apple’s statements about her latest album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, which she has described without reservation as “the excrement of [her] life…the stuff that [she] really needed to get out. ” It’s not a polished sentiment, but it’s vintage Apple in that it speaks to a deep-seated, compulsive need to purge her subconscious, however messy the results may be.
Over three startling albums (1996’s ‘Tidal’, 1999’s ‘When The Pawn…’ and 2005’s ‘Extraordinary Machine’), Fiona Apple’s sophisticated neuroses became emblematic of a very American end-of-the-century angst. Teaming a confessional sensibility with a dramatic edge, the New Yorker’s seemingly endless well of demons to be exorcised transcended the usual ’90s singer/songwriter clichés thanks to jaw-dropping levels of lyrical and musical prowess. Whether she was sharing details about a masochistic power struggle (‘Not About Love’, ‘Shadowboxer’), contemplating the abuse she suffered as a child (‘Sullen Girl’) or seemingly reflecting on her role as enfant terrible of the Lilith Fair set (‘Limp’), Apple’s songs had the dangerous, addictive quality of watching a car crash in slow motion.
It can’t possibly be 16 years since Fiona Apple busted on the scene with her mesmerizing talent and uncanny ability to polarize, can it? Maybe the reason it doesn’t seem that long is that she hasn’t released all that much music in that span; her newest, saddled by a typically wordy Apple title, is just the fourth full-length of her career. When last we heard her, it was 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, an album in which Apple shuffled between ornate pop and driving, rhythm-based music to produce an unmitigated triumph. The passing time seems to have spurred on her penchant for challenging her listeners because The Idler Wheel (get a preview here) is a far cry from the piano-driven combination of jazz and indie rock she once peddled on hits like “Criminal” and “Sleep To Dream.
Finally. FINALLY! After seven long years we are graced with a new Fiona Apple record—her fourth in total! It’s astounding to think that she’s been in the record business for 16 years and has only released four albums. Her third release Extraordinary Machine was shrouded in internet scandal about a shelved album and her record company forcing her to stay silent.
A great fourth album in a career not lacking for high points. James Skinner 2012 That The Idler Wheel… is Fiona Apple’s first album in seven years should not be a surprise at this point, nor should its unwieldy title. Nor, really, should it be a shock that following the protracted release of 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, Apple began recording it in secrecy, keeping even her record label in the dark.
During the lengthy gaps between releases, Fiona Apple has increasingly become an artistic force of nature that creates her work in a temporal vacuum. Unlike the vast majority of musicians who have tasted the same degree of commercial and critical success, Ms. Apple isn't seeking another hit or batch of glowing reviews to fatten her stature or bank account; she bleeds music for catharsis.
It's not what's missing so much as what's taking its place. "I just want to feel everything," intones Fiona Apple on Idler Wheel opener "Every Single Night," thus tipping over a fourth album so narrowly focused on the L.A. songwriter's dexterous piano work that you might forget how hard she once rocked. Apple's first full-length in seven years comes drenched in percussion – she and producer/drummer Charley Drayton receive an alarming wealth of player credits – with "Regret" and "Daredevil" doing as much to showcase the sheer rawness of the singer's delivery as the cool "Valentine" manages to delicately gloss over it on the other end.