Semisonic have marked the 20thanniversary of their epoch-making album Feeling Strangely Fine with a deluxe edition reissue. Released on CD and digital, the reissue will also be available in a limited edition gold vinyl pressing. Marking the first time a Semisonic album has been pressed to vinyl.
Together with the perennial Closing Time, hit singles Secret Smile and Singing In My Sleep, the deluxe edition features four additional tracks recorded at the time of the album. But with a need to confine the record to twelve tracks, they were issued as B-sides on international CD singles. As well as the additional tracks, Semisonic have shared a previously unreleased demo of Closing Time. Providing fans an insight to the Grammy Nominated song’s evolution.
Speaking on how Feeling Strangely Fine has endured, Dan Wilson said:
“When I started writing songs for the album that would become Feeling Strangely Fine, John Munson and Jake Slichter and I were living in South Minneapolis. I had decided awhile back that my best songs were about me and the people I loved or admired and our adventures and troubles, and the new songs really reflected that ideal. I was writing about our lives,” reflects Dan Wilson. “I remember telling Jake I wanted to make a record that had the folk music simplicity of Simon & Garfunkel but also the loudness of U2 and Nirvana. I wasn’t thinking that these songs would become the soundtrack for so many people’s lives. We definitely weren’t thinking that these songs would still be played on the radio 20 years later.”
Produced by the legendary Nick Launay, the band recorded twenty songs over the course of four months. These were then stripped back to sixteen tracks sent for a final mix and the best twelve used for the original issue of the album.
Kicking off with radio regular Closing Time, it’s little wonder this never left the airwaves. There’s a trident of killer melodies in this tune that has a surprisingly raw edged production for such a radio friendly banger. However, second track and second single Singing In My Sleep didn’t repeat the commercial success of Closing Time. Listening now, it’s hard to pinpoint why the punters didn’t go for it. It’s a great single with big moment, sing-along choruses. Also, it stands the test of time pretty well and wouldn’t sound out of place on today’s airwaves. Made To Last could easy be a single. This track is perfectly written for Liam Gallagher whose nasals would nail the rousing choruses.
The piano stomper of Never You Mind takes the tale of a battered heart, to a swirl of cosmic ELO escapism. Again, easily a single, and they just keep on coming with Secret Smile. A track that scored Semisonic a huge hit in Europe.
Feeling Strangely Fine gently introduces you to the album’s electronic elements as the album progresses. Modulation backs up a string section on DND and the bluesy folk of Completely Pleased. This Will Be My Year and All Worked Out step on the distortion more than other tracks on the album but their psyched out moments don’t detract from some excellent songwriting.
Wilson’s dark ode to the Golden State, California is probably the most album track, album track, but still towers above a lot of Long Play mortar. Penultimate of the original pressing She Spreads Her Wings, written by Munson starts with an off kilter tone but soon reconvenes as a harmonious rouser that changes shape again to a late piece of experimentation. Before Gone To The Movies rounds off the original twelve album tracks with a nod to Joni Mitchell sound.
The four additional tracks appearing on this reissue are four solidly written tunes that push the boundaries of their sound. No doubt jettisoned to give the final twelve a more complete feel as an album, they push the corners while carrying the distinct hue of temporal influences.
Long Way From Home is a great little number with a nice riff redolent of mid 90’s bangers from Weezer and Eleatica. I’m a Liar is a bit Zooropa U2, complete with Bono style fuzzed out vocal swirls over a modulated backdrop of biting guitars. And from the lap steel into of Beautiful Regret you’d be forgiven you’re in for the straighter up, acoustic guitar big chorus number. However, the modulation makes a reprise. Taking this ballad of choosing easy regret over difficult dreams to a point where it goes a bit Floydy. The final track, Making a Plan makes a return to a Joni Mitchell style melody and illustrates Wilson’s songwriting skill together with Launy’s magic at the desk. It takes twists and turns and certainly covers a lot of ground.
You can’t help but think Feeling Strangely Fine could have spawned far more singles that it produced. Semisonic did see more success with one track, than many bands see across an entire career. However, there will be many familiar with the band and their massive hit that never dipped into this long player. Feeling Strangely Fine is a solidly written album that has aged well. The additional tracks certainly exhibit the more experimental side of Semisonic’s sound. Presumably shorn for commercial appeal.
Splitting after follow up album All About Chemistry was critically acclaimed but less successful commercially. Post Semisonic, Dan Wilson went on to be an in demand songwriter. Penning hits for Adele, Dixie Chicks, Halsey and Noah Cyrus. Last year, Wilson released Re-Covered, a unique album that found the Grammy-winning songwriter reinterpreting songs from his feted career that he wrote for and with other artists.
Drummer Jacob Slichter authored So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star (Broadway Books, 2004). He has also written for the NewYork Times, been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition and currently teaches creative nonfiction at Sarah Lawrence University. John Munson has continued to be a leader in the thriving Minneapolis music scene. Currently playing with The New Standards alongside Chan Poling of The Suburbs. He also plays with The Twilight Hours alongside Matt Wilson (of Trip Shakespeare and Dan’s brother) who are working on their new record. Munson also held the title of Music Director for the nationally broadcast American Public Media program Wits! During its six years on air. Together with producing critically acclaimed records for Minneapolitan artists Dylan Hicks and Lucy Michelle.
Reuniting briefly last year for two shows, the trio has intimated that a full reunion of Semisonic is still very much on the table. The Feeling Strangely Fine Re-Issue is available for order via PledgeMusic and includes unique premiums including lessons with bassist John Munson and drummer Jake Slichter, as well as the original “Closing Time” 2″ safety master tape reel.
1) Closing Time
2) Singing in My Sleep
3) Made to Last
4) Never You Mind
5) Secret Smile
7) Completely Pleased
8) This Will Be My Year
9) All Worked Out
11) She Spreads Her Wings
12) Gone to the Movies
13) Long Way from Home
14) I’m a Liar
15) Beautiful Regret
16) Making a Plan