Semisonic’s new album starts off good and just keeps getting better. Buoyed by a bouncy piano riff and the slinky one-two punch of Dan Wilson’s vocals and guitars, “Chemistry” is a luscious slice of guitar pop heaven that compares the perils of modern relationships to the lessons we learned (or didn’t) in chemistry class. “But we found out that the two things we put together had a bad tendency to explode,” Wilson sings, as Slichter and bassist John Munson keep things deliciously tight in the rhythm section.
Blending introspection with a healthy sense of wonder has always been a Semisonic trademark. So when Wilson ends the thoughtful chorus with an “oh, oh oh, oh oh oh,” he’s inviting us not only to sing along but to feel along, too. Wilson’s earnest delivery makes even “Get a Grip,” a Caribbean-tinged pop rock anthem about playing with yourself when you’ve got no one else to play with, sound as thoughtful and poetic as the sweet and simple “Follow,” which begs his lover to “take me wherever you go, help me forget tomorrow, love me your best and I know, all of the rest will follow.”
Munson provides a fine lead vocal on the atmospheric rocker “Who’s Stopping You,” while the eight-minute “I Wish” feels only half as long thanks to tight playing and Wilson’s soulful vocals. The most beautiful moment comes two minutes into the gorgeous piano ballad “One True Love,” as Wilson and co-writer Carole King bounce harmonies off each other like the equals they are, just before a lovely string break arranged and conducted by Slichter pulls you even deeper into the song’s heartbreaking beauty. “Act Naturally” is so good it hurts, chronicling a public appearance by a couple shattered by their rapidly unraveling relationship. “I’ll be me before the fall, and you be you before this all came down.”
The synthesizers that occasionally accent the album’s proceedings, such as those on the dreamy stunner “She’s Got My Number,” add layers without distracting. ALL ABOUT CHEMISTRY is a glorious pop record, combining the all the best elements of songwriting and songcraft. True love might be hard to find, but these guys definitely get an “A” in chemistry.