100 for 2000 – #17. Semisonic – All About Chemistry

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2001 – #7. Semisonic – All About Chemistry
(MCA)

Very interesting, looking back, how much affirmative music I loved in 2001. I must have been quite happy. And it in the pantheon of Love Gone Right albums, this is a great one. A few of us still speak of this album in hush tones (hello Liam, hello Tim)…this band was pretty good, and this album really captured something. It didn’t capture the public and All About Chemistry remains the last album by Semisonic.

Semisonic had a big hit in the US and Australia with Closing Time (in the UK, it was Secret Smile). I bought that last album, Feeling Strangely Fine, and it sat along side another dozen records that year as decent pop rock fare from America.

With All About Chemistry – there was a change. The songs became less personal, more anthemic. Songwriter Dan Wilson expressed this is an interview at the time – he wanted to write to a room. He had a big international audience for the first time.

Chemistry was the first single, and a brilliant one at that. Using science and chemistry to discuss dating – the ups and downs, and how the great experiment continues.

So for awhile we conducted experiments 
In an apartment by the River Road 
And we found out that the two things we put together had a 
Bad tendency to explode

In fitting with a talented band that a label didn’t know what to do with, the album is heavy with collaborators. First and foremost is Carole King, who co-wrote and performs on One True Love. Another big song about how people love (rather than a love song), it should have been a hit. Elsewhere, Gary Louris of the Jayhawks provides some fantastic guitar to I Wish, another highlight.

I’m surprised this record didn’t do a lot better. It’s a perfect college rock record, although I guess that alternative pop was out of vogue at the time. It was also clever enough to hit the pop geeks, but perhaps their previous hit maker status turned them away. Probably the bigger death knell is the overall mood – it’s very mature.

(With the exception of the song Get A Grip, a cheesy ode to masturbation, not one of the better songs, but desperately released as a last single).

My two favourite songs are: Follow – just a great pop love song. A classic, should have been single, should be sung by buskers the world over. The other is El Matador – written by the drummer Jacob Slichter – a woozy goodbye with shades and allusions to Joni Mitchell, a trick I would blatantly steal later.

I still listen to this record. At it’s core, it’s what I like. Semisonic, however, broke up shortly after. It took lead guy Dan Wilson 6 years to make a follow up, having taken up a role as songwriter for hire. You can probably find this album in a bargain bin near you…

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