Semisonic - Feeling Strangely Fine

Semisonic – Feeling Strangely Fine

1998. To me another period where the manufactured music seemed to take over the airwaves, so the arrival of Semisonic with Closing Time was a godsend; nothing to do with my alternative residence of the pub, but the quality of the music. Lyrics with the clarity of Crowded House, memorable tunes, and a pleasure to listen to rather than “Whitless” and “Saline Dion” (sic). So, what do you get for your likely reinvestment in the 20th Anniversary edition? To be honest, you get the classic album and four B-sides. They are very good B-sides, but musically you can see why they did not fit the album of the time, the flow would have been wrong. As it is – and was – there is not a weak track on the album in my view, mixing rock pop with ballad.

It is easy to see why Dan Wilson went on to write with Adele, Taylor Swift and several others, achieving four Grammy awards. Semisonic are back now, with tours outlined for 2019 and the recording of new material, until then this album and the subsequent All About Chemistry will highlight the strength of the band’s music.

This has been principally played in the car on a half decent Sony ICE system, taking it out into the wilds and up the garden to the studio reveals much more in terms of both the simplicity of some tracks and the complex layers of others. Those four bonus tracks are open, exciting, but still in my opinion would have been cumbersome if include in the ’98 release. Great tunes and songs, but spoilers in the overall feel of what I consider a classic album. You may beg to differ as they do reveal something of a band with a bit more of an edge, and out of their placement here they hold as much interest to me as the original tracks.

I have deliberately not analysed track by track as I believe structurally, they are all pretty much faultless, I love the words, the playing, the fact that I still want to sing along, though I doubt Dan’s ability to hit those notes on the high register these days. My attempts have required dishwashing the nutcrackers and a repeat of that noise made from the crossover of childhood to puberty.

My biggest disappointment? The parting of the ways following All About Chemistry. I love the Crowded House quirkiness of Semisonic, their lyrical strength and wry humour, again not unlike that of Del Amitri or Crowded House, but clearly individual. Anyone who writes this gets my vote:

“Switch on the box Mr. Spock is on the table
Dr. McCoy is unable to connect his brain
Sweatin’ and strainin’
Well it seemed so simple at the time.”

In terms of a purchase, well, if you did not buy this 20 years ago then I would highly recommend an addition to your music collection. If you have it already, then the bonus tracks will not add a great deal; sleeve notes that could possibly have made this an essential purchase are not present, and I can detect nothing significant between the original mix and the current release. This album may be a good use for those Christmas gift tokens you might have received.

Then there is this little slice of a She’s Leaving Home variant She’s Gone To The Movies.

Why is the review short? The album speaks, nay, sings for itself, any negativity you may detect is purely icing, the cake beneath is delicious as ever, rich, smooth with just a hint of all spice. Dan Wilson may be an in-demand songsmith, but I wait with bated breath for more from Dan, Jake & John as Semisonic.

01. Closing Time (4:33)
02. Singing in My Sleep (4:30)
03. Made to Last (5:02)
04. Never You Mind (4:24)
05. Secret Smile (4:39)
06. DND (4:11)
07. Completely Pleased (3:19)
08. This Will Be My Year (4:32)
09. All Worked Out (2:52)
10. California (5:29)
11. She Spreads Her Wings (3:06)
12. Gone to the Movies (3:52)
~ Bonus Tracks:
13. Long Way From Home (4:05)
14. I’m A Liar (4:24)
15. Beautiful Regret (3:56)
16. Makin’ A Plan (4:11)

Total Time – 67:05

John Munson – Bass Guitar (all tracks), Background Vocals (all tracks except 11), Lead Vocals (track 11), Additional Guitar (track 2), All Guitars (track 11), Wah-Wah Guitar (track 12), Trembly guitar (track 4), Stereo Moog (track 8), Moog (tracks 5 & 7), Slide Guitar Solo (track 6), Drive-by Moog Bass (track 10), Piano (track 1), Earthquake Loops (track 10), Volcano Loops (track 10)
Jacob Slichter – Drums (all tracks), Background Vocals (all tracks), Conducting (tracks 1,5,6 & 12), Piano (tracks 8,9 & 11), String Arrangement (tracks 1,5 & 12), Rhodes Piano (track 3), Wurlitzer Piano (track 2), Mellotron (track 11), Stereo Moog (track 8), Earthquake Loops (track 10), Volcano Loops (track 10), Flute Arrangement (track 5)
Dan Wilson – Lead Vocals (all tracks except 11), Background Vocals (track 11), Guitar (all tracks except 11), Piano (tracks 3,4 & 7), String Arrangement (tracks 5 & 6), Rhodes Piano (track 5), Synth Whistle (track 4), Drum Loops (track 6), Flute Arrangement (track 5)
~ Additional personnel:
Bruce Allard – Strings (tracks 1,5,6 & 12)
Mary Bahr – Strings (tracks 1,5,6 & 12)
Carolyn Boulay – Strings (tracks 1,5,6 & 12)
Troy Gardner – Strings (tracks 1,5,6 & 12)
Josh Koestenbaum – Strings (tracks 1,5,6 & 12)
Matt Wilson – Lead Guitar (track 4)

Record Label: Universal Music
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 19th October 2018 (originally 24th March 1998)

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