Lot's Wife 
Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) · 
March 2000
by Joe Cettolin

10 out of 10

WHEN THE PAWN Hits the Conflict 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.

The first listen to When the pawn hits the… (oh, never mind) the prodigious sophomore release of tortured pianist Fiona Apple, is religious experience, a baptism in sounds. The release is a follow-up to the huge American success of her first album Tidal penned at age 17, written whilst going through the temptations of suicide and healing from a brutal rape. Sound bites are the story of the misunderstood maiden’s career, ‘Raped at 12’ ‘flounced in her underwear on the controversial Criminal filmclip’ ‘turned from precocious prodigy to brat-bitch after a MTV awards acceptance speech in which she described the world as ‘bullshit.’’ But in truth, behind the headlines, stands a breadth of work which is really worth far more than the hype. Apple’s LP is an album of slow-burners, songs that linger in your memory long after you’ve turned the stereo off and become new experiences each time you listen to them. The album’s strength is in its uncompromising view of life as a contradictory experience which should be lived out in its complexity -an eclectic concept which is demonstrated in both lyrics and musical styles. 

While on the opener ‘On the Bound’ Apple wrenches those magic words ‘you’re all I need’ into something far more sinister and abusive to the tune of impending doom, ‘Love Ridden’ turns the tables as Apple becomes the emotional victim in a lilting lounge tune minus any beat which could float away on the slightest breeze. Meanwhile Apple makes good use of her amazingly matured Jazz voice to belt out the playful ‘Paper Bag’ in which she seems to invoke a young Nina Simone. This track, in particular, is accompanied by some beautiful orchestration provided by the chamberlains of music wiz Jon Brion who has helped the likes of Ami Mann and Macy Gray construct their chart-toppers. On ‘Fast as You Can,’ the album’s first single Apple switches back to the vixen, warning away potential lovers that she is a time-bomb waiting to go off ("Fast as you can baby, scratch me out, free yourself…") to a frantic drum and bass beat which suddenly drowns under a juxtaposed slower chorus. This album is full of surprises, as unpredictable as the artist herself who is not as whiney as Alanis, nor as precious as Tori Amos.

Related Artists: Tori Amos, Imogen Heap.