Let’s get this out of the way.
The full title of Fiona Apple’s critically acclaimed 1999 sophomore album is:
When the pawn hits the conflicts 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, cause you’ll know that you’re right
That’s a poem Apple wrote that obliquely suggests what her experience had been like as a pop star in 1996-97.
Because of my ex-girlfriend’s animosity towards Fiona Apple, I entirely missed this brilliant album – and it is a brilliant album. This was, in no small part, due to the participation of producer Jon Brion. Every song is musically adventurous, lyrically solid and expertly performed by Apple and the assorted musicians who worked on this project. Over at AllMusic.com, they sometimes offer a review of a song or two on an album. Every single song on this album gets its own review. I mean, this album is loved, man.
“On The Bound” opens When The Pawn… is genuinely (borrowing some words from reviewer Matthew Greenwald funky, elegant and brooding. Try fitting that all into one tune. Apple and Brion do and the song immediately announces “this is not the same half naked little girl from the ‘Criminal’ video.”
Apple faced a lot of criticism from a variety of different people after her first album and its my understanding that When The Pawn… pretty much shut most of them up. That’s the way to answer criticism if you’re a musician – release a brilliant album. I’ll note that Kanye West just did the same thing with his most recent record (since it will be months before I write about it).