The Acid Reflux :: Review: The Idler Wheel :: Music
Music: Review: The Idler Wheel | Well... this title is long...

The world of music has always moved at a substantial pace. It may seem rather obvious to state this fact but so many artists fall foul of taking too long a hiatus that they arrive back onto the scene finding that the world has moved on without them. Certain artists are able to pull this because they have already made such an impact on the musical world that the longer we are without them the more bereft we feel. Fiona Apple, like musical giant Kate Bush, is just one of these artists.

It has been seven long years since Extraordinary Machine, Apple’s third album, saw the light of day. In this time many “girls on piano” have come and gone with few achieving the same level of kudos. For one thing none of them would dream of titling their album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (or The Idler Wheel… for short).

The first noticeable thing about this album is how sparse it feels compared to her previous efforts. In previous albums she has experimented with sweeping orchestrations and has revelled in the world of jazz pop. As such this album can seem a little like a work in progress on the first listen where outside of the chimes in opening track ‘Every Single Night’ and a few banjo twangs this album relies almost exclusively on a mix of piano and percussion. It really is a far cry from the Grammy-award winning ‘Criminal’ whose layered woodwind section commanded our attention back in 1997.

However, unlike most albums which populate the chart The Idler Wheel… is not only complex and fraught with contradiction but also demands your full attention. On the penultimate track ‘Anything We Want’ she remarks “let’s pretend we’re eight years old” and it’s that mind-set that needs to be applied to this album. Rather than coming up with your own dance moves to superb cabaret-styled track ‘Hot Knife’ the amount of attention you need to give it is the stereotype of the teenager with large headphones sitting in the corner of their bedroom who is utterly engrossed in what they are listening to. This is something best avoided with the works of artists like Ke$ha, but then again Fiona Apple does not make music suited to the club scene.

Lyrically Apple has always been remarkably strong and whilst her troubles have matured since she released her debut at 19 she has yet to lose her punch. Every phrasing has been carefully chosen from the image of her “little fists tugging on [her then partner’s] forest chest” to the repeated use of the word “liken” on ‘Werewolf’. Whether the use of “liken” (a homophone of Lycan) is a happy coincidence or not is unknown but when looking at her other works, and how she enjoys changing the pronunciation of words for effect, this would be continuing the pattern.

It may be early to call this the best comeback album of 2012 seeing how we still have upcoming hiatus-ending efforts from Beck and Cat Power left to be released but it will be interesting to see if either of them can top it.

Page written by Mulholland.

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