All About Chemistry

  • MCA

When they busted out beyond “best-kept secret” status with their 1998 album “Feeling Strangely Fine,” Semisonic proved to be one of the few new bands capable of crafting intelligent pop music that actually sells.

Triggered by the hit song “Closing Time,” the disc went platinum, and put the Minneapolis trio into the upper echelon of rising rockers.

Unfortunately, success seems to have taken a toll.

On their follow-up album, guitarist/songwriter Dan Wilson, drummer Jacob Slichter and bassist John Munson have assembled a set that's generally lighter in tone than their previous offerings. And while this does have some intriguing moments, there's nothing that's as purely magical as earlier Semisonic songs like “Singing in My Sleep,” “Closing Time,” or “Down in Flames.”

Instead, they tend to get too sweet too often, going overboard with the obvious as during the lecherous horn toad saga “Bed,” or the double-entendre laced “Get a Grip.” The latter may or may not be rock's latest ode to self-gratification, but it's a far cry from the quality of writing Wilson has previously displayed.

He does get some help from an unlikely source though, teaming with none other than Carole King for the quite beautiful “One True Love.” Along with her role as co-writer, King also contributes piano and sublime backing vocals to the song, which sounds like the thematic successor to “Closing Time.” Otherwise, there are fleeting flashes of intensity here, but not enough to break the dynamic sameness of much of the recording.

Kevin O'Hare