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*** SEMISONIC "All About Chemistry," MCA

March 11, 2001|MARC WEINGARTEN

Semisonic's Dan Wilson is less a hopeless romantic than a romantic fatalist. He's well aware that love is too fleeting and precious to give up without a vigorous fight, and he doesn't give in easily. On his trio's third album (in stores Tuesday), the follow-up to its 1998 double-platinum album, "Feeling Strangely Fine," Wilson is trailing after broken relationships all over the place with a gimlet-eyed belief that he'll find what he's looking for.

But Wilson isn't some teenage boy-band crooner. He's a thirtysomething Harvard grad, and he approaches romance and its discontents from all kinds of interesting angles. Wilson can be a coy schoolboy, as evidenced by the title track, but on "Bed," he skips the leaden metaphors and gets down to the business of sex: "Show me a friendship that's pure and chaste," he sings, "and I'll show you an engine that's dying to race."

The album's best tracks showcase Wilson's talent for lump-in-the-throat pop, the kind that leavens jangling joy with a healthy dose of melancholy. In "Act Naturally," the trick is to conceal bad blood by putting up a brave front until "we get it figured out." Other tracks reveal their sentiments in the titles alone-- "I Wish," "Follow," "One True Love." Wilson's writing may be getting a bit soft-headed, but he can still convince a cynic that platonic love isn't a storybook myth.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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