Sunday, April 24, 2005

Fiona Apple.

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I have recently become a Fiona Apple fan.

I originally heard about her many years ago, while I was still getting into Tori Amos. At the time I downloaded a few songs ('Never is a Promise' is the only one I remember), which I listened to a few times but didn't stick out for me, and so it was left, forgotten, on my hard drive; I should have caught on that she was someone to pay more attention to after finding out that many Tori fans were also big Fiona fans. That was all I heard from her for a long while (and why should I, when she hasn't commercially released anything since '99?) until recently, when a fan posted in a Tori Amos LiveJournal community I'm a member of.

Fiona's most recent recording, 'Extraordinary Machine,' has, it seems, been cancelled by her record company, Epic (owned by Sony), as they don't feel it'd sell enough copies to make it's release worthwhile - in other words, it's not commercial (or accessible, if you prefer) enough. has been launched by outraged fans in light of this to head a campaign against Sony for it's release, posting plastic apples to the record company. (The likelihood is, by the 5th apple, they took one look and immediately had them all disposed of, but they are continuing to persist.)Things looked bleak for the cause until recently when an anonymous source released a copy of 'Extraordinary Machine' across several p2p programs online. Curious to see what the fuss was about, I acquired a copy, and took a listen.

It caught my attention - so much so, that last week I purchased a copy of her second album: 'When The Pawn Hits The Conflicts He Thinks Like A King, What He Knows Throws The Blows When He Goes To The Fight And He'll Win The Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters The Ring, There's No Body To Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might, So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand And Remember That Depth Is The Greatest Of Heights And If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where To Land, And If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right.' (Yes, that really is the full title - all 90 words of it.)

I should have realised from the title that this would be an ambitious and unique record - not many artists would have the confidence to face the ridicule that a title like that will obviously bring. From the opening chords of 'On the Bound' I was hooked; the opening lines "all my life is on me now, hail the pages turning, and the future's on the bound, Hell don't know my fury" setting the fiery tone for the rest of the album. Intelligent, powerful poetry is the centre of her music, with a jazz-pop setting, yet photos of her give the impression of someone fragile, with her big eyes and waif-like figure. She gives the impression of someone who will not be pushed around in her lyrics, such as "So call me crazy, hold me down, make me cry, get off now baby, it won't be long till you'll be lying limp in your own hand" from 'Limp,' so it’s surprising when you hear of her experiences with rape and abuse that caused her to be afraid of men for many years and develop an eating disorder. However, amid the drum solos, she has still managed to master the soft ballad in songs such as 'Love Ridden' and 'I Know.' These give the album a much more human and down-to-earth feel, as it’s easy to get swept away by Fiona’s haunting voice and imagery.

It is so easy to group her with the other angry female artists that appeared in the 90s (Tori, Shirley Manson of Garbage, P.J. Harvey, Ani DiFranco and Alanis Morissette being just a few), but she is so much more than that. Stand-out tracks include 'Paper bag,' 'Fast as You Can,' 'Limp' and 'Get Gone.' And no, I don't think 'Extraordinary Machine' is really any different from her previous offerings - both of which were highly successful and multi-platinum. But then, I find it crazy for them to expect an artist who calls the world "bullshit" in an award acceptance speech to produce "something familiar, something similar to what we know already that will keep us steady - steady going nowhere."



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