Best Albums of 2020: Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Evie Lake tells us why Fiona Apple's fifth album is the best of 2020 so far

Evie Lake
13th August 2020
Surviving lockdown seemed like a gruellingly impossible task for me. Along with everyone else I struggled to motivate myself to do anything I enjoyed and was out of sync with my internal monologue; I had subconsciously flipped that switch in my brain. And then on 17th April, Fiona Apple dropped her fifth record, some months before it was originally meant to be released. Almost as if she could sense my flailing, Apple unleashed Fetch The Bolt Cutters on the world, and what I thought would be a momentary lapse in my entrenched lockdown funk turned out to be infinite (hormones permitting). 

To have been released during a time of little freedoms, the title of the album is so apt it’s almost as if Apple saw all of this coming. “Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long” song lyric turned bizarre mantra I chanted (too loudly according to my sister) whenever the stir-crazy got too much. Aside from its applicability to the ‘unprecedented times’ we’re all so sick of mentioning, the album tells the story of a woman newly unbound, the 13-tracks personify Apple freeing herself from a lifetime of shackles and expectations: “just fetch the fucking bolt cutters”! I love this album because it represents a woman going through her own enlightenment, relaying the tale of someone who “hadn’t found [their] own voice yet” to someone who “won’t shut up”; it’s an emancipating journey that I hope every woman will take and Fiona Apple does too. 

It appears that Apple has, likewise, become emancipated from her previous musical self. What makes the album so unique and enjoyable is the complete discordance and unruliness of each and every track. Accompanying lyrics of sheer candour and rebellion is the clattering of pots and pans, the barking of dogs and anything else you could find strewn across a house. The album is soaked in domesticity, Apple is sharing with listeners ideas and conservations she would, normally, be having privately, only now she’s ready for the world to hear what she truly thinks. It’s 2020 and yet the topics Apple delves into still feel taboo and off-limits for a lot of women: to announce so unapologetically in ‘For Her’: “you raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in” is groundbreaking, striking and wrathful: upon hearing this line I gasped. As a young woman, this is the music I long to hear. Music that pushes boundaries, music that riles me up and gets me angry; at times Fetch The Bolt Cutters left me soaking in indignation that was not unlike that which I experience from Fem-Punk. Definitively, there is a before and after: how I viewed myself before FTBC and how I knew myself after. Some advice: I’d be wary of crossing the latter. 

As a young woman, this is the music I long to hear

My favourite track from the albums is, of course, ‘Ladies’. The sarcastic and charged repetition of the word ‘ladies’ throughout the song is Apple’s way of mocking the men that attempt to ‘calm us down’ whilst simultaneously pitting us against one another for affection as if there isn’t an abundance of fish in the sea. Interestingly, Apple points out that the majority of these fish are in fact women, who are being churned out into your life, like a steady stream through a “revolving door”. Instead of creating companionship and sisterhood, women are putting themselves in direct and fierce competition with each other, angered and weighed down by the woman who replaces you, and not the man who directly inflicted the pain. Fiona laments this by recounting her own life: “I’m with a guy. I found out he’s seeing some other woman. I meet that other woman- I’m nice to that other woman. She didn’t do it. She didn’t cheat on me.” Truly, I believe this is a philosophy more women need to believe in because nowadays there is such a culture of hostility surrounding dating and female friendships. Dating isn’t the only thing that is good in this world- stop revolving your life around it. 

Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a part of me now, or rather I’m a part of it. I am the woman that Apple addresses, and now I am the woman speaking for it. This album filled me with a purpose or, better yet, reminded me of the one that was waning during the punishing months of lockdown. It reminded me that my voice matters and that sitting around ‘shutting up’ is to the benefit of those who don't need it. 

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