Review: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw…

Fiona Apple may produce albums with ridiculously long titles, but I wish she would also make longer albums.

Don’t get me wrong. Her latest effort, which came out earlier this year, is wonderful. I just wish there were more than 10 songs.

“The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” is the title of the album. Yes, all of that.

That’s actually pretty short for Apple, considering her second album was entitled “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.”

I pasted that in from Wikipedia. Most people shorthand the title as “When the Pawn,” because by the time you finish saying the whole title you’ve forgotten what you were going to say anyway.

But I digress. “Idler Wheel” is a great album, with plenty of that raw-sounding vocal work Apple has become famous for.

What I love about it is, of course, the percussion. There’s plenty of fantastic marimba work, a rumbly timpani and then there’s the celeste, which most people wouldn’t even recognize by name. Apple plays the piano and a lot of the percussion herself.

My liner notes for “Idler Wheel” came in a notebook-looking thing that includes the whimsical credit “Thighs,” for the song “Daredevil,” which I’m pretty sure means they’re using their thighs as percussion. It’s pretty awesome, and you have to admit it adds a certain meaty texture to the thing.

The standout tune, though, is “Hot Knife,” an incredibly simple song featuring just two verses and a bridge in a sort of round. It’s a little like Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy,” with the two separate, very simple verses, each catchy in its own right, layering on top of each other over and over and cascading into a single complex song. It’s wonderful.

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