The Legal Matters

The Legal Matters

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The Legal Matters Review

by Mark Deming

The Legal Matters are a Michigan power pop supergroup, featuring Chris Richards of Chris Richards & the Subtractions, Keith Klingensmith of the Phenomenal Cats, and Andy Reed of An American Underdog, but if you think that tells you everything you need to know about the band, you could be wrong. The Legal Matters' self-titled debut album is a tuneful delight with great melodies, hooks, and vocal harmonies, but it's a more contemplative and low-key set than one might imagine; tunes like "We Were Enemies" and "Mary Anne" recall the pensive Chris Bell tracks on Big Star's #1 Record, the gorgeous tune faced against a dour lyric of "Have You Changed Your Mind?" nearly matches the bummed-out beauty of the Pernice Brothers, and "The Legend of Walter Wright" tells the tale of a sweet loser who wouldn't be out of place in a Village Green Preservation Society-era Kinks tune. There are plenty of tunes here that could be hit singles in a just world, especially the sunny opening track "Rite of Spring" and the playful, mildly cocky "Before We Get It Right," and the Legal Matters' three principals work beautifully together, bringing out the best in one another's abilities as songwriters, vocalists, and instrumentalists. But if you're expecting cookie-cutter high-energy power pop, the Legal Matters have instead delivered something a bit more sophisticated and ambitious, and rather than each member simply tossing a few tunes into the pot, this album sounds like a collaboration that's creating something more than the sum of the parts. Pop fans who want a record that will please their ears but also spark their imaginations will find all manner of pleasant surprises in The Legal Matters.

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