As any good chemist knows, repeating the results of a successful experiment isn't always easy. Unfortunately for the Minneapolis-based trio Semisonic, the same tenet often holds true for music, as well.
The group, which released the pop gem Feeling Strangely Fine in 1998, has returned from the lab with All About Chemistry. This time around, however, pouring the same ingredients into a test tube and heating it under the pop music Bunsen burner hasn't provided the band with a similar conclusion.
The hypothesis is similar combining piano and guitar hooks with lyrics taking on heartache, happiness, and the comedy of the human tragedy, frontman Dan Wilson and company aim for the tunes to separate, jell, and eventually solidify.
Somewhere along the way, the process broke down.
The results are not bad nor are they dynamic. It's shiny and it shimmers, but there's no fizz, no explosion. And where each track on Feeling Strangely Fine had a mournful, plaintive quality, All About Chemistry has an overproduced gloss that's hard to penetrate and doesn't allow the emotion behind the lyrics to get out. Simply put, the songs, the hooks, the lyrics they don't stay with you, even after repeated listens.
That said, there will undoubtedly be fans out there that find this album speaking to them, especially "One True Love" (featuring Carole King) and "Follow." Also, both "Surprise" and "I Wish" feel like throwbacks to previous efforts, the latter proving an extremely ambitious eight-minute track in which the band flexes its musical muscles, taking the listener through an emotional workout.
But none of these songs truly stand out, and the entire album blends into a vacuum. And while the band clearly put some heart and soul into this latest experiment, the chemistry just wasn't there.