"Be kind to me or treat me mean/I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine..."
It's been six long years since we last heard from pop's queen of melancholy, Fiona Apple, in her sophomore album "When the Pawn..." (add eighty words). And she was definitely missed during that time.
In those six years, Apple actually created another album, "Extraordinary Machine," only to shelve it for awhile. So imagine the joy of her fans when it was announced that at last, this "Machine" was in motion, and would finally be out and about for public consumption.
With expectations so high, one would expect that Apple's "Extraordinary Machine" would disappoint one way or another. But it doesn't. With dramatic strings and explosive piano rock, Apple proves that she's only grown further during her forced hiatus.
She hasn't lost her knack for pain and angst, or the memory of romantic rage. She can be wounded and angry just as well here. If anything, it's sharper this time around: "Wait 'til I get him back/He won't have a back to scratch/Yeah, keep turning that chin/And you will see my face/As I figure how to kill what I cannot catch..."
Not that it's all on one subject, or based on one emotion -- most of them focus on post-love in all its forms. Apple explores being cheated on, being dumped, being alone, and the heartache of a breakup's aftermath. "I'm either so sick in the head/I need to be bled dry to quit/Or I just really used to love him/I sure hope that's it," she muses.
But the title track is perhaps the most memorable one, where Apple reaffirms her own strength. Perhaps she's answering her critics when she says, "I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day/You deem me due to clean my view and be at peace and lay," over a charmingly little singsongy tune.
Apple has apparently matured musically as well. Her trademarked piano is still She plays strong, complex melodies that ripple under her husky voice like water under a bridge. Sometimes she sounds poppy, sometimes bluesy, and sometimes it borders on rock. And there's a stronger string presence in this album, lurking in the shadows of the piano, then swelling up dramatically.
It took a long time for "Extraordinary Machine" to turn up in stores, but Fiona Apple's third album was worth the wait, showing off the ways she has matured as a musician and a songwriter.