Song of the Day #4,336: ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ – Fiona Apple

Of all the new music that has dropped in the coronavirus era, I’m most excited and entranced by Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, the singer-songwriter’s first new album since 2012’s The Idler Wheel.

The notoriously reclusive, reluctant genius has released only five albums in 25 years, each of them a very different kind of masterpiece. A new Fiona Apple record is enough of an event that I’m dedicating the rest of the week to this unique gem.

I’m a card-carrying member of Apple’s very devoted fan base, and I’ve always been heartened by the lavish praise her work receives from critics. But nothing prepared me for the avalanche of accolades heaped on Fetch the Bolt Cutters.

Music critics far and wide were calling it the Album of the Year mere hours after its release, while Pitchfork awarded its first perfect score in a decade. My Twitter feed blew up with fans bowing down to Apple’s achievement.

I’m not used to that kind of gushing over a personal favorite. It felt like Parasite winning Best Picture all over again.

My guess is that Apple’s album hit as hard as it did because it is uniquely suited to our new quarantine culture. Here’s a vivid artistic explosion from a woman who basically lives in quarantine herself all the time — she is the perfect hero for this moment.

And in the album’s title, we have a fitting metaphor for our frustration at being caged by a deadly pandemic. “Fetch the bolt cutters,” Apple sighs on the title cut, “I’ve been in here too long.”

It’s a metaphor for breaking out of any unwelcome confinement, be it emotional, psychological or physical. Right now we’re faced with all of the above.

I also think the album’s do-it-yourself aesthetic is perfectly suited to our current times. Apple recorded the record in her home, banging on furniture for percussion, letting her barking dogs accent the outro of today’s SOTD. She’s every home worker apologizing for the toilet flush in the background of a Zoom meeting.

The label wanted Apple to delay this album’s release until November, but she knew the world was ready for it right now.

[Verse 1]
I’ve been thinking about when I was trying to be your friend
I thought it was then, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t genuine
I was just so furious, but I couldn’t show you
‘Cause I know you and I know what you can do
And I don’t want a war with you, I won’t afford it
You get sore, even when you win

[Verse 2]
And you maim when you’re on offense
But you kill when you’re on defense
And you’ve got them all convinced
That you’re the means and the end
All the VIPs and PYTs and wannabes
Afraid of not being your friend

[Verse 3]
And I’ve always been too smart for that
But you know what? My heart was not
I took it like a kid, you see
The cool kids voted to get rid of me
I’m ashamed of what it did to me
What I let get done
It stole my fun, it stole my fun

[Chorus 1]
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters

[Post-Chorus]
He sings so nice, I guess he tries (I’ve been thinking about when I was trying to be your friend)
(I thought it was then, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t genuine)

[Chorus 2]
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters (I’ve been in here too long)
Whatever happens, whatever happens (Whatever happens)
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters

[Verse 4]
While I’d not yet found my bearings
Those it girls hit the ground
Comparing the way I was to the way she was
Sayin’ I’m not stylish enough and I cry too much
And I listened because I hadn’t found my own voice yet
So all I could hear was the noise that
People make when they don’t know shit
But I didn’t know that yet

[Verse 5]
I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill
When they came around, I would stand real still
A girl can roll her eyes at me and kill
I got the idea I wasn’t real
I thought being blacklisted would be grist for the mill
Until I realized I’m still here (I’m still here)
I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill
Shoes that were not made for running up that hill
And I need to run up that hill, I need to run up that hill
I will, I will, I will, I will, I will

[Chorus 2]
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters, whatever happens, whatever happens
Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters, whatever happens, whatever happens
Fetch the bolt cutters (I’ve been in here too long)
Whatever happens, whatever happens

[Outro]
Fetch the bolt cutters, fetch the bolt cutters
Fetch the bolt cutters, fetch the bolt cutters (I will, I will)
Fetch the bolt cutters, fetch the bolt cutters
Fetch the bolt cutters, fetch the bolt cutters
Fetch the bolt cutters, fetch the bolt cutters
Whatever happens, whatever happens
Whatever happens, whatever happens
Fetch the bolt cutters (Whatever happens, whatever happens), fetch the bolt cutters

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,336: ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ – Fiona Apple

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’ve been meaning to get around to listening to this album, so thank you for featuring it.

  2. Amy says:

    I’m so glad you’re featuring the album this week. I, too, have been eager to listen but just haven’t gotten around to it. Fascinated that she recorded it all alone in her home. What an intriguing woman she is. I hope she means what she says in the song and rejoins society on the other side of this. Maybe she and JLo can perform “Criminal” live at whatever awards ceremony is the first to allow such a collaboration.
    https://www.theloop.ca/fiona-apple-reveals-how-she-really-feels-about-j-lo-stripping-to-her-song

  3. andrea katz says:

    Clay, I really appreciate your taste for the original and off beat…cheers!

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