Classic rock is a tough genre to work with in this day and age, conjuring up images of hedonistic bombast, posturing front men and generally over-the-top antics. All of which makes this attempt from the fresh-faced Illinois-native a little different and a little easier to bear. Opening track ‘Record Collector’ is a shining example of Lissie at her finest. A jazzy beat and meandering melody are backed by odd percussion and haunting pad sounds, all suitably propping up the vague, spiritual lyrics. The climb out of the sparse bridge is a real moment of release and as close to genuine, unhinged emotion as can be found on the record.
The problem with much of this album is the glossy sheen of perfection cast over it. Lissie’s vocals are perfect, the choruses are big and bold, drums are metronomic and nothing ever really feels likely to fall apart. There are no cracks; no light can get in. This perfection most obviously gets the upper hand with the sickeningly sweet ‘Stranger’, a mediocre pop song with a couple of country cliches thrown in around the side for the sake of it. It is the low point of a generally weak mid-section.
At fourteen songs, Catching A Tiger is a long album, especially for a debut. However something of a renaissance occurs toward the end of the record with the bare, piano-led ‘Everywhere I Go’. Finally the vocals are given the space they deserve and they shine in such a setting. The song is a big, emotional slap in the face to the safe and easy country-pop that preceded it. However, its power is only matched again with the straight out gospel of ‘Oh Mississippi’ and the climax of the final track, ‘This Much I Know’. At nine or ten songs this could have been a really good album; as it stands it is overly long and packed out with distinctly ordinary filler. Lissie remains a certain talent, she just needs to be given the musical space to show it off properly.
Lissie plays , The Academy, Dublin on December 7th.