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The Idler Wheel...
She’s still at war with herself, but Apple wins this time.
Craig Fitzpatrick, 03 Jul 2012
After a seven year wait, Fiona Apple is back. The talk about The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do thus far has centred around the Manhattan songstress’s curiously unpredictable mental state. Though this might seem to downplay her wondrous musical talent, it makes sense, as her fourth long-player deals chiefly with her internal angst and the extensive accompanying psychoses.
Thoughout The Idler Wheel she lets her well-documented eccentricities truly fly but never once loses control, laying her emotions bare with astonishing power. Over the course of ten exquisite tracks, it becomes apparent that this is the kind of startlingly brave album that comes around all too rarely these days. It. may well come to be regarded as her true masterpiece.
That voice has never been better or more revealing. She can still do the acrobatics but now possesses a deeper ache that opens up new dimensions. ‘Every Single Night’ is the first single and opens like a nursery rhyme sang after visiting hours in a psych ward. “Every single night’s a fight with my brain,” she confesses, capturing the theme instantly. From there, we have winding, self-referentially clever lyrics riding melodies in debt to the Great American Songbook, allied to meandering piano and accomplished drums from the inventive sticksman Charley Drayton. At times, Apple is revealing to the point of voyeurism. Heartbeats, scraping footsteps and rattling household items provide the rhythm. At times it feels as if she is in the room with you. Whispering over your shoulder or shrieking in your face.
‘Valentine’ covers romance; ‘Werewolf’ is a tumultous, offbeat, bitter joy; by the end of ‘Regret’ she’s delivering a vocal-chord ripping yell that recalls Kurt Cobain. and ‘Left Alone’ arrives midway through, sounding like the world is tumbling down a spiral staircase. But picking favourites misses the point.
The Idler Wheel... is an album in the old-fashioned sense. A demanding, often difficult listen it will keep you coming back time and again. Concise and accomplished, it is a near flawless rumination on Fiona Apple’s myriad flaws. Utterly human, utterly brilliant.