Hippo Manchester
October 13, 2005

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Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

Epic/Clean Slate, 2005

***

Fiona’s last album, 1999’s When the Pawn, made me feel like all my ex-girlfriends ever were yelling at me all at once. Moreover, it made me feel like I deserved it. I listened to that thing non-stop for weeks.

Like that crazy chick you thought you managed to set up with some other poor schmuck, Fiona finally reappeared last week to renew the abuse with Extraordinary Machine. She expertly utilizes the double meaning inherent in the title of the second track, “Get Him Back.” An obvious device, perhaps, but her signature discordant piano makes the point much better than her sometimes brilliant, sometimes clunky poetry, so you can look past the words.

In fact, some of the weirdest moments on the CD come when there’s a completely orthodox chord resolution. The title track’s chorus contains a downright chipper few bars, and “Better Version of Me” overlays an unlikely vaudeville tune over the equally unlikely “Oh, after all / The folderol / And hauling over coals / Stops / What will I do.”

Now, I love Fiona. I really do. But you do have to wonder about someone who follows a song called “Please Please Please” with one called “Red Red Red,” and in the latter says the word “kill” six times in a row.

Then again, the same song contains the lines, “I don’t understand about diamonds / And why men buy them / What’s so impressive about a diamond / Except the mining.” This manages to both validate my belief that diamond rings are stupidly extravagant and impress me with her philosophical punning. The mine-ing. As in, making mine. As in, marking as one’s property.

A stretch? Maybe. I give crazy chicks the benefit of the doubt.

— John “jaQ” Andrews