The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More…
Jun 22, 2012 Web Exclusive
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. Like Sylvia Plath with a gift for jazz phrasing and theatrical enunciation, Apple packs her morose musings into a swinging blend of torch ballads, lullabies, and down and dirty piano ballads, all sprawling beyond the confines of any traditional song structure.
On 1999's When the Pawn, Apple found herself lamenting the man who was "all in her head." Not much has changed. This time out, she takes her daydream romance a step further, mourning, "You didn't see my valentine/I sent it via pantomime." Not that this internal monologue comes as a surprise. "Every single night's a fight with my brain," Apple sings in opening track, "Every Single Night." Well...don't say she didn't warn you.
Produced by drummer Charley Drayton, The Idler Wheel is Apple's biggest statement yet, its textured, booming soundcapes finally living up to the conflict housed in her twisted poetry. It's a tension that leaves the album swinging from the uncomfortable to the divine. "Jonathan" plays on the lingering obsession that accompanies a failed romance, an unsettling percussive clatter accompanying Apple's haunting declaration, "I like watching you live." Conversely, Apple comes into her jazz-royalty potential on closing track "Hot Knife," twisting the near-cliché "He's a hot knife/I'm a pat of butter" into a full-throated vocal choir. Another singular album from a truly idiosyncratic voice, Apple has once again invited us into her lushly conflicted inner monologue—just don't ask her to provide any easy answers. (www.fiona-apple.com)
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