If you're going to start a band, it's never a bad idea to have someone in the lineup who has a recording studio and knows how to use it. Take the Legal Matters -- all three members are gifted songwriters, instrumentalists, and vocalists, but the fact that one of those guys happens to run a studio and is an experienced engineer has allowed them the opportunity to hone their studio craft so it's on par with their other talents. The trio's third album, 2021's Chapter Three, is that rarity in indie power pop albums, an LP where the production and studio savvy are as intelligent and satisfying as the material they've documented. Given how good these songs are, that says a great deal -- Keith Klingensmith, Andy Reed, and Chris Richards have delivered another dozen gems on their third full-length project, mixing engaging melodies with lyrics that run from joyous ("Light Up the Sky") and haunted ("Pain") to bittersweet ("That's All") to pointed ("The World Is Mine"), and make all those emotions ring true. Though the guitars dominate the proceedings as you might expect (this is a power pop band), the group has the savvy to make use of a good vintage keyboard sound, and the '70s style synth patches on "Make Things Up" and "That's All" -- and the classic organ tone on "Don't Read Between the Lines" and "The Painter" -- are the seasoning that brings out the flavors in those tunes. All three Legal Matters are fine singers. Along with their effective lead vocals, they can harmonize beautifully, and the Beach Boys-meets-Big Star tone of the layered voices is a delight. The guys were smart enough to bring in a top-notch drummer, and Donny Brown (best-known for his long tenure with the Verve Pipe) gives the music a strong rhythmic backbone that adds to the effectiveness of the material without getting in the way. In a genre where some acts take pride in sounding trapped in emotional adolescence, the Legal Matters sound smart and mature on Chapter Three without sacrificing the emotional warmth of the music. This is more than a set of very good songs, it's an album in the classic sense, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and you don't have to be a power pop obsessive to find this worth your while.
Chapter Three Review
by Mark Deming