Fiona Apple's "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw..."

Fiona Apple's "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw..."

  • Article by: Jon O'Brien
  • Posted: 06/19/2012

...And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Anyone who thought that Fiona Apple might have mellowed during her seven-year absence only needs to glance at her fourth studio album’s unwieldy title to see that her uncompromising spirit is still as strong as ever.

Eschewing the lush arrangements of regular collaborator Jon Brion for a skeletal, stripped-back production, (courtesy of touring drummer Charley Drayton), The Idler Wheel… is, if anything, the most primal, restless, and harrowing listen of her wildly unpredictable career.

The twisted waltz of “Werewolf” and the unusually optimistic “Anything We Want” may show glimpses of the melodic leanings which made her a Lilith Fair favorite back in the '90s, but they are merely anomalies on a record which is so raw that it’s often difficult to believe it’s the finished product.

Apple’s vocal contortionist skills are never less than utterly captivating, whether it’s interrupting the twinkling lullaby of opener “Every Single Night” with bursts of tribal chanting; echoing the guttural roar of Patti Smith on the percussive Baroque pop of “Daredevil”; or interweaving the sparse pounding folk of closer “Hot Knife” with layers of haunting a cappella harmonies.

Inevitably, the album's twists and turns don’t always hit the mark. The punishingly intense “Regret” is perhaps one wailing banshee moment too many, while “Jonathan” outstays its welcome long before the final discordant note brings its confessional tale of a trip to Coney Island to a close.

In an era where Auto-Tune reigns supreme, Apple’s refreshing refusal to play by the rules has produced one of the year’s most compelling, if ultimately exhausting, emotional roller-coaster rides. But after seven, tortuous years of waiting to hear from our troubled songbird, one can only expect an equally-as-enervating listening experience, which ultimately makes The Idler Wheel… especially gratifying.


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