It's fitting that The Port Huron Statement's Man of the Match opens with a brief instrumental that recalls "Auld Lang Syne." To these straying ears, the invocation is a welcome to genre: "Hello, indie rock, my old friend. It's been awhile." It's got all the indie juice—cool-guy-next-door vocals that retain their coolness even when distorted; guitars that live somewhere between air raid siren ring and siren's beckoning call; and quirk in the form of accordion, harmonium and sampler visitations. And there are echoes of dozens of indie faves, from Guided By Voices and Ted Leo to, most prominently, the gone-recluse Jeff Mangum.
It's also fitting the aforementioned instrumental prologue ends abruptly as "Homecoming Parade" crashes in with takeoff thrust. The juice proves a big swig of rocket fuel. Man of the Match seems to be a concept album of sorts about astronauts—The Right Stuff: The Musical, maybe, or using the astronaut as metaphor. (God knows, some relationships, if not lives, are like doomed space missions.) The multi-colored centerpiece "The Rain Like a Gentle Dream" features guitarist/ songwriter Chip Taylor declaring, "There was a bang so big it shook the world/ So loud it moved the moon."
While it'd be an overstatement to call Man of the Match earth-shaking, too, it is unearthly entertaining. The album-capping "Life Long After Space," for instance, ends with hooks, a horn and hyper drumming that soar together in elegiac splendor before they fall, leaving only a music box vapor.
You'll be ready for re-orbit. And, yeah, that is a metaphor, one reflecting the desire to play Man of the Match again and again.
The Port Huron Statement plays a CD release show at The Pour House Saturday, April 19, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5, and Regina Hexaphone, Wembley and Richard Bacchus all join in the celebration. Attendees get a free disc.