By Henry Lipput
There are songs that make you smile as soon as you hear them; and there are more than a few of those songs on Conrad, the new release from The Legal Matters.
The Legal Matters hail from Detroit, Michigan; and Conrad is their second album. It was clear from their 2014 self-titled debut that the band's major influences were power pop icons like Big Star, Matthew Sweet, and Teenage Fanclub. Legal Matters have covered Teenage Fanclub's "Don't Look Back" and included it in a sampler that made the rounds last summer. With great tunes and terrific harmonies, that first album was a delight for power pop fans. And, like Teenage Fanclub, a Legal Matters album contains contributions from three songwriters: Chris Richards, Andy Reed, and Keith Klingensmith.
"Anything," the opening track written by Richards, is a stunner about a guy trying to tell his best girl he'll do anything to make her happy. It's a great tune with terrific harmonies and backing vocals and a middle eight and guitar break that lift the song into sublime territory.
In "More Birds Less Bees," a conversation takes place between a couple; but the guy doesn't quite get what's going on (It may be one of those "Let's just be friends" talks): "But it seems she's talking more birds and less bees / and I don't really know what it means / but she's making me weak at the knees." The melody grows and grows and there's a really nice mid-60s AM radio sound to the song -- the Turtles perhaps?
In addition to those two song,s Richards also wrote the short, sweet, hymn-like "Lull And Bye" that ends with some lovely Beach Boys-style harmonies.
Andy Reed's "I'm Sorry Love" and "She Called Me To Say" bring more of a big guitar sound to the Legal Matters mix. These songs also bring up one of The Legal Matters' other big influences, especially when it comes to harmonies: The Posies, notably that band's Dear 23 album.
The acoustic "The Cool Kid" can be seen as Reed's take on Big Star's "Thirteen." Both are about teenagers who don't quite fit in, both trying to win the heart of a girl. There's also a bit of Ben Folds Five's "Underground:" "I was never cool in school / I'm sure you don't remember me."
If "The Cool Kid" is Conrad's Alex Chilton song, "Pull My String," Keith Klingensmith's contribution to the album, is the Chris Bell song (as well as the song that highlights their love of Teenage Fanclub). In addition, it's where everything that makes The Legal Matters such a much-listen for power pop lovers like me can be found in just one song.
Conrad is out now on Omnivore Recordings.