I heard a great Fiona Apple song this morning: “Criminal”. This song and others from her album “Tidal” were direct shots to my brain when they came out. “Shadowboxer”? Phenomenal. That song was on my mix tapes for a long time. I was devoted to this CD.
When her second album came out “When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right”… deep breath… what????… anyway, I was eager to pick it up. I bought it, happy to see she was smiling on the cover.
She is not smiling on these tunes though. It seemed angry in fact. I have to admit she had me with the sentiments of Tidal. I felt a little uneasy with this album, like I just didn’t quite get what she was going for. Maybe that was intended. I tried, I really did. I kept playing this, expecting to become better attuned to it after several listens. It just didn’t happen. And what the hell was the title all about? Longest Album Title in Guinness Book of Records for 2001, surpassed now, but crazy then. The title was a poem she wrote about reading responses to a negative article about her. Was she intentionally trying to put people off, or just the record company?
So one great album, one album that left you feeling strange. There is no doubting her voice, and her piano is fantastic and I still considered myself a fan.
Then there was a long period where Fiona Apple was out of my consciousness.
During a CD cleanout one year after a full digitization of my collection, I put my copy of “Tidal” on the breakroom table at work. It was snatched up quickly. That made me smile. Someone else out there was a fan.
A month or so later I received that exact CD, taken from the breakroom table and wrapped, as a White Elephant gift at a holiday party. Poor Fiona.
In 2005 when “Extraordinary Machine”” was released I was hopeful.
I get that she is a singer/songwriter and the music might be slightly less important than her words in her head, but very little on this CD really struck me. Again, the talent is there, I just think she is writing for someone who is certainly not me.
Then came 2012.
“The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do”
I know you can’t judge a book (or album) by its cover, but… this just looks chaotic. I envisioned the material inside to be less than soothing and smooth. Furthermore this long ass title thing is getting old. Did you really need to go there again? Yes, it is considerably shorter than “When The Pawn…” but it is seriously longer than 99% of all other albums in the WORLD. Why do you keep doing this?
I’d like to think that I have matured over the years along with Fiona Apple and if anything I would be more accepting of her slower singer/songwriter stuff, but unfortunately I’m not in tune with this again.
In my head when I listen to this I get the sense that I am listening to a Tom Waits album on which he has computer sequenced his voice to sound like a young woman. Sigh.
I fully accept that “Tidal” was 20 years ago and it might have been material she had to do to get heard, but that was what I liked. Most of what she has done since seems to be from a whole other artist. I’m sure there are fans that find her latest work inspired and it really speaks to them, but I can’t see it and it makes me sad because I really liked the start of my Fiona Apple ride.
I wish her all success and happiness.
I’m gonna go listen to “Tidal”.