Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., Jan. 13, 2006
Extraordinary Machine (Epic)Tidal, Fiona Apple's 1996 debut, was once the soundtrack to my misery. We were immature back then, Fiona and I. Following 1999's substantial leap forward, When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King, Apple's label-embattled third go-round proves my old pity-party buddy has reached adulthood intact. "O' Sailor," Extraordinary Machine's high tide, finds Apple and her band on a ship of sound, piano and drums forming the foundation and winds, organ, and upright bass building walls around the listener as Apple's husky alto asks, "O' sailor ... what'd you do that for?" Gone is the wounded little girl confessing her woes into the microphone; in her place, an older, wiser, stronger woman who'd sooner slap you than take your abuse. Of course, it wouldn't be a Fiona Apple album without the requisite left-field stuff, which comes with the enjoyable, jazzy title track. Extraordinary Machine seethes from the outset, but drifts by the time "Red Red Red" appears toward the close. If the back end didn't sag, this cyborg would be unstoppable.