Semisonic is the consummate inoffensive pop band.

Often compared to Matthew Sweet and Fountains of Wayne, Semisonic was formed in Minneapolis in 1992 by Dan Wilson, John Munson and Jacob Slichter. All three members of the band are multi-instrumentalists, but each tends to adhere to a certain role. Wilson plays lead guitar (sometimes piano) and has written most of the band's songs. He normally sings the lead vocals. Munson has written a song or two on each of Semisonic's albums, and normally sings the lead on his own songs. He's primarily responsible for the bass, and often plays a trombone in concert. Jacob Slichter plays the drums, but has written a song or two for the band. In concert, he often plays the piano part of the band's popular single, "Closing Time."

Semisonic's first album, is an E.P. called Pleasure. In the early days of the band, the group was also performing as "Pleasure." They were Semisonic for their often bathetic, poppy stuff, and Pleasure for straight-up rock. Semisonic was obviously more successful. Pleasure features Minneapolis favorite "Sculpture Garden." "The Prize," written by Wilson the day Kurt Cobain died, wonders aloud about other songwriters probably eulogizing Cobain at the time. The production value of the Pleasure is obviously a bit lacking, but the songwriting is promising.

Semisonic followed up with Great Divide, a much better produced and more balanced effort. Divide starts with "f.n.t.," a three-minute bouncer that's hard not to like. A reprise of "The Prize" changes very little, but standout tracks like "Down In Flames," "Falling," and "Across the Great Divide" display Wilson's hook-writing ability well. The band doesn't stretch its limits much, sticking with the basic guitar-bass-drums instrumentation and well-worn song structures.

After Great Divide, the band released Feeling Strangely Fine, a collection of introverted, often delicate love songs. Its opening track, "Closing Time," was one of the most-played radio hits of the 90's, sure to cement the band as a prime 90's nostalgia reference in the coming decades. FSF is an album full of terrifically sweet, soft love songs, from "DND," a gentle promise to a lover to spend some time alone, to "Gone to the Movies," a thoughtful reflection on a love lost.

All About Chemistry, the group's next album, was open and extroverted, where Feeling Strangely Fine was opposite. It's much more upbeat, melodically and lyrically. The band still didn't move far beyond traditional pop/rock instruments, but they honed their abilities impressively. Wilson cowrote "One True Love," which should've been a single, with Carole King. Other great tracks on this disc are Slichter's "El Matador," about moving on, perhaps about growing up, and "Get A Grip," an amusing, thinly-veiled song about self-love.

Perhaps in writing a song about masturbation, they're trying hard to be edgy, but musically, Semisonic is about as offensive as a pail full of kittens. They make music that could be played on pop radio, but isn't.

Discography

Pleasure E.P. (1995)

  1. The Prize
  2. Brand New Baby
  3. In The Veins
  4. Wishing Well
  5. Star
  6. Sculpture Garden
  7. The Gift

Great Divide (1996)

  1. f.n.t.
  2. If I Run
  3. Delicious
  4. Down In Flames
  5. Across the Great Divide
  6. Temptation
  7. The Prize
  8. No One Else
  9. Brand New Baby
  10. Falling
  11. In Another Life
  12. I'll Feel For You

Feeling Strangely Fine (1998)

  1. Closing Time
  2. Singing In My Sleep
  3. Made to Last
  4. Never You Mind
  5. Secret Smile
  6. DND
  7. Completely Pleased
  8. This Will Be My Year
  9. All Worked Out
  10. California
  11. She Spreads Her Wings
  12. Gone to the Movies

All About Chemistry (2001)

  1. Chemistry
  2. Bed
  3. Act Naturally
  4. She's Got My Number
  5. Follow
  6. Sunshine and Chocolate
  7. Who's Stopping You?
  8. I Wish
  9. One True Love
  10. Get A Grip
  11. Surprise
  12. El Matador

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