Natalie Merchant

Elektra Records, 1995


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


One can only speculate why Natalie Merchant chose to leave 10,000 Maniacs, the band with whom she first tasted fame, in 1994. Maybe it was that she was getting tired of doing songs with a commercial edge, and she wanted the freedom to create songs which were true to her own artistic vision, even if they didn't get a sniff of notice from radio.

Tigerlily, Merchant's solo debut from 1995, did indeed spawn three hits, and cemented her role in the field of alternative rock. But this disc also showed that when Merchant turned more introspective and turned down the intensity on the music, the whole picture suffered.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of the song "Carnival," the first single off the album, but in terms of the big picture, it's really not so bad. It does have a somewhat catchy beat, even if one wishes there had been a little more in the lyrical department in terms of quantity. "Wonder" does a better job as a single, even though it reverts back to the pop sensibility that marked Merchant's time with 10,000 Maniacs.

But for the most part on Tigerlily, Merchant eschews the glamour of pop and follows her own muse - a muse which can be summed up in one word....


The bulk of Tigerlily, while having its occasional moment of beauty, is weighted down in its own self-righteousness, coming off as smug and boring more often than not. Granted, Merchant has a foundation built from her years with 10,000 Maniacs. But in terms of her solo efforts, one almost feels like she has something to prove before she can indulge in efforts like "I May Know The World" and "River," or go for the potential cornball track like "Cowboy Romance".

Then again, that pretentiousness does occasionally deliver an emotional knockout. "Beloved Wife" is an amazingly powerful track that should hit almost every listener on some level. It is very difficult for me to get through this track without becoming emotionally exhausted - and I am fortunate to have never undergone such a loss as Merchant sings about on this one. Efforts like this show just how powerful a songwriter Merchant can be.

If only there were more such moments on Tigerlily. Tracks like "San Andreas Fault," "The Letter" and "Where I Go" - even the third single "Jealousy" - don't pack the same kind of whallop, coasting instead on Merchant's past and the few bonafide successes she has on this disc. As a solo debut, it's listenable. But Merchant demands that one take both her own societal view and her past history into focus. With that view, Tigerlily wilts in comparison.

Rating: C-

User Rating: B+



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.