Pop’s troublemakers often seem more trouble than they’re worth. Everyone’s a gangsta now, and if everyone’s a gangsta then no one is. Fiona Apple is a throwback to the old-school notion of the “difficult artist”—a gangsta avant la lettre, if you will—who has proven to be worth every bit of trouble. She’s mellowed. No more dire acceptance speeches (“This world is bullshit.”) or videos staged as arty ’70s softcore porn romps. These days, her most rebellious antic is simply taking her time between albums. Not for nothing, it seems, was her first hit called “Shadowboxer.”
Well, she is still coming up with extremely long album titles. Coming this summer is The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do, her first since Extraordinary Machine in 2005, and only her fourth since her remarkable 1996 debut, Tidal, announced the then-18-year-old singer-songwriter as an unalloyed prodigy.
Tickets for Apple’s show this week were gone in a flash, crashing the Lincoln Hall servers, suggesting that, for her fans, absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder. Aside from her routine appearances at West Hollywood’s Largo club, where her erstwhile producer/sidekick Jon Brion holds court, Apple hasn’t tested out the new material. It will be fascinating to see what’s been going through her head the last seven years and what new twist she brings to a wounded-yet-resilient, inherently sophisticated and subversively melodic body of work.