Semisonic: All About Chemistry

Semisonic: All About Chemistry

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Semisonic

Album: All About Chemistry
Label: MCA

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The success of Semisonic's Feeling Strangely Fine, and its ubiquitous single "Closing Time," was one of 1998's most encouraging musical success stories: It brought overdue recognition to a band that stands with Matthew Sweet and Fountains Of Wayne among America's top purveyors of insanely catchy pop. Arriving in a modern-rock landscape dominated by rap-rock rage and the tortured bellowing of countless Alice In Chains wannabes, Feeling Strangely Fine was unfashionably romantic, with Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson finding outsized drama in subject matter as mundane as mix tapes and barfly desperation. But where Feeling Strangely Fine took the euphoria of newfound love as its primary subject matter, its successor lingers on love's messy hangover. All About Chemistry taps into a vein of singer-songwriter introspection only hinted at by the appearance of Carole King. Semisonic hasn't exactly turned into Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but signs of self-indulgence have crept into the music, as evidenced by the nearly eight-minute running time of "I Wish" and an abundance of strings and fussy production tricks. But Wilson hasn't lost his gift for writing memorable, brilliantly crafted pop songs. The rollicking, piano-driven single "Chemistry" favorably recalls both Ben Folds Five and its '70s forebears, while the beautifully bittersweet "One True Love," co-written by King, likely marks the album's best chance of re-capturing the success of "Closing Time." Wilson possesses a nearly unmatched gift for crafting three-minute pop-rock gems, which makes it a bit of a shame that so much of Chemistry feels dour and gloomy. As a result, it's perhaps the least immediately satisfying of Semisonic's three albums, and given the cruel nature of the music industry, it may fail to net the band another hit single that would stave off the dreaded "one-hit wonder" label. But the music world would be far better off if every one-hit wonder possessed even a tenth of Semisonic's intelligence, craft, and heart.

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