What do you do when your album is rejected by your record company? Well, if you’re Fiona Apple, you dump your long-time collaborator, Jon Brion, redo most of your album with new producers and give your record company an even more problematic CD.
Apple’s third full-length album would be a triumph of the will and courage of strong artists everywhere if Extraordinary Machine was anything to write home about. While the album is consistently original, daring and certainly a worthwhile listen, it’s after that first listen that the interest disintegrates.
The main issue is probably the lack of melodies. The album, about Fiona’s break up with long-time boyfriend filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, is an awkward dish of sorts. There are tailored, upbeat songs that aren’t as catchy as they are interesting, and a whole lot of cynicism on the side. There’s no mistaking this as a breakup album.
Even though self-indulgence often keeps the album from being consistently pleasing, it doesn’t keep you from admiring it. Apple shows strong growth in her lyrics and her voice. The album feels smooth and natural from beginning to end. However, Extraordinary Machine has the scope to be exhilarating and irritating at the same time. This alone is a very difficult accomplishment, and I say accomplishment because I think it’s more difficult to make an album like Extraordinary Machine-which keeps its composure and originality even though it hurts the album in the long run-when compared to an album that conforms to the interests of the majority of listeners out there. This album takes plenty of chances, and some don’t work. But if nothing else, it’s an extraordinary miscalculation.
Danny Gordon can be contacted at email@example.com.