A review of Fiona Apple’s album “The Idler Wheel…”

Fiona Apple might habitually wait anywhere from five to seven years between albums and tours, but she always makes it up to fans in the end. Take for example her most recent album. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, released this past summer, is Fiona’s fourth studio album. Her last album before this one was Extraordinary Machine, released in 2005.

The Idler Wheel, as it is typically called by fans, has all the best unique characteristics from her previous albums, while still managing to have a fresh sound. It’s bitter and melancholic like Tidal, angry like When The Pawn Hits… (another shortened album title. This album’s title is long enough to take up its own paragraph), and snarky like Extraordinary Machine. The single from this album, “Every Single Night,” comes with a video showing Fiona at her finest: either with an octopus on her head, or playing with snails. It’s reassuring that, though the world has changed significantly since her last album release, Fiona is still Fiona.

The majority of tracks on this album feature Fiona’s unique and characteristic piano playing. Something new on this album, however, are the choppy, syncopated beats of Fiona’s new drummer Amy Wood. Wood matches Fiona’s frantic piano pounding tit for emotional tat. The deluxe version of the album includes a bonus track called “Hot Knife,” in which Fiona even delves into the world of vocal harmony.

The Idler Wheel… is brutally honest, but what makes it so interesting and powerful is that Fiona is being brutally honest about herself, and not those who have perhaps wronged her in the past. This album gives the listener the feeling that the song lyrics could have been lifted directly from Fiona’s personal journal and not edited at all, such as in the song “Left Alone”:

Oh, when I try to love
I can love the same man in the same bed in the same city
But not in the same room, it’s a pity, but
Oh, it never bothered me before.

Everything about The Idler Wheel… justifies the seven year wait, from the album artwork to the lyrics to the music itself. Fiona Apple has poked her head out into the music scene to let everyone know that she’s back, for now. 

Ten Commandments of Concert Goers

  1. Thou shalt pregame. $7 for a twelve-ounce beer, $10 for a twenty-four ounce. Do you really want to pay those inflated alcohol prices? Didn’t think so. Neither do I.
  2. Thou shalt buy thy ticket ahead of time. Just do it. It will make your life so much easier come concert day. You’ll already be waiting in the line to get into the venue. Why tack on another?
  3. Thou shalt arrive early. Don’t get mad when you get stuck in the crappy area in the back trying in vain to peer around the heads of those vertically inclined individuals in front of you because you got there late. If you want to be up front, get there early, wait in line, grab your chunk of floor, and wait some more. Which leads us to….
  4. THOU SHALT NOT SHOVE THYSELF IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. Those people in front of you got there early, waited hours in line, then probably waited another hour standing in their cherished front row spot. They’re tired, their feet hurt, and they’ve earned that spot, dammit. Don’t be an asshole by rushing the stage when the artist comes on and attempting to elbow those patient devoted fans out of your way. If you want that spot, get there early and wait/suffer with them.
  5. Thou shalt enjoy thyself! You’re at a concert. Move. You’ll have more fun, the people around you will have more fun, and the performer will have more fun. When they’re up there rocking out and workin’ hard, do you think they want to look out and see a room full of zombies? No. The more fun you have, the more fun they have, and the better the concert experience will be for everyone. (I acknowledge that not all concerts are conducive to this, such as sit-down shows. Whatever. Proceed to the next commandment.)
  6. Thou shalt not yell rude things at the performer. Why would you even do this in the first place? Alas, there’s one in every crowd. The performer is taking a moment to speak to the crowd, and someone yells out “sing!”. You might have paid to see the show, but that doesn’t make them your servant. Show some couth.
  7. Thou shalt wait thy turn to meet the performer. This is along the same lines as commandment four. Don’t cut in front of other fans patiently waiting to meet the artist. We all learned how to wait our turn in kindergarten. You can do it.
  8. Thou shalt not act like a blubbering buffoon. Should you get to meet the artist, don’t act like a prepubescent tween at a Bieber concert. Play it cool, then freak out about it later.
  9. Thou shalt not steal from other fans. The first time I saw Joan Jett, my buddy, who is consistently lacking in funds, went with me. He worked extra hours to afford the luxury of buying a t-shirt at the show. Someone stole it while we were rocking out. He couldn’t replace it. Not. cool.
  10. Thou shalt be satisfied. Regardless of how it ends, just be happy that you had the experience. 

Gender Bending and Shakespeare

In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of attention given to possible homoerotic and non-binary gender themes and characters in the works of William Shakespeare. Sonnet 20 is considered by many scholars and spectators to be the most palpable example of these themes in Shakespearean sonnets:

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all ‘hues’ in his controlling,
Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

At first glance it might appear that this sonnet was written about a woman, but that is definitely not the case. The second line makes this very clear, when the individual is referred to as the “master-mistress of my passion”. Once the revelation has been made that this sonnet is indeed about a male, the first line takes on a new meaning; this male has a “woman’s face”; that is to say he is likely very lovely and effeminate. Shakespeare then goes on to describe this man as being more desirable than a woman is, and then obviously is described once more as being a male, “A man in his hue, all ‘hues’ in his controlling”. As this sonnet goes on, it gets more and more interesting: Shakespeare is in essence writing that this man was originally made a woman, until nature literally “prick’d” him out; that is to say, endowed him with a penis, thus causing the narrator (presumably a male as well, given the conflict and lamenting tone present in this sonnet) to say that nature has defeated him by an “addition”, “by adding one thing to my purpose nothing”. It is also stated that he was pricked out for women’s pleasure, i.e. given a penis in order to naturally please a woman (and not a man, furthering conflict), and this pleasure is the “treasure” mentioned in the last line. The homoerotic implications and gender bending in this sonnet are quite obvious when the sonnet is re-read with close attention to detail, and not taken at face value.