MATCHING MOLE — Matching Mole (review)

MATCHING MOLE — Matching Mole album cover Album · 1972 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sean Trane
With his first solo album under his belt, Wyatt returned to Soft Machine, only to find that opposition to his vocal experiments had grown stronger than ever, and he left “this group that was making him so miserable”, but this didn’t mean that all links were severed. Actually he had grown frustrated at the other Machinists’ persistence in ignoring his vocal and poppier musical preoccupations. So Wyatt proceeded to record another solo album, but his CBS label convinced him to form a band to promote the album instead. So the album that had startedc as poppy-vocal album ended up up a schizophrenic mix of solid JR/F and pop tunes.

Not only did Robert name his new band after his former group’s French translation (Machine Mole >> hence Matching Mole), but the two groups spent much time touring together, the newcoming MM opening for the veteran SM. So Robert called up old Wylde Flower Dave Sinclair, Delivery’s Phil Miller (brother of then-Caravan Steve Miller), and found Bill McCormick during a Quiet Sun eclipse and formed his “group”, which only rehearsed three months before recording their debut album. About halfway through it became apparent that Sinclair wasn’t going to stay in MM (partly on touring issues, but I suspect Wyatt’s voracity in terms of writing credits as he signs all but one track), so the group added jazzman Dave McRae on electric piano, but supposedly as a guest. Indeed, lengend has it that the two keyboardists even played a few MM gigs together. Less than a month after the album’s release, McRae became an official member, following Sinclair’s departure.

Recorded around Christmas 71, MM’s debut album is an uneven affair, with the record basically divided in three sections. The first section seems to elevate Wyatt as a superstar with his vocals brought to the fore, while the second movement is a wild fusion of jazz-rock and prog rock, and the third part being quite experimental. MM’s debut couldn’t have started worse off, with the atrocious O Caroline (based on journalist/activist Caroline XXX. This song is not only terrible (the only thing saving it is the interesting mellotron sprawled all over the song), but it also happens to have been the most covered one in Canterbury circles. But the bad start is immediately mended with the superb Instant Pussy where Wyatt orgasms into the microphone as if he was a woman, the whole thing over a tranquil bass line and a gentle jazz-rock rhythm. Segueing directly into Signed Curtain, Wyatt starts with his no nonsense “first verse and chorus” lyrics over a piano that Floyd’s Rick Wright wouldn’t disown. After the first three songs celebrating Wyatt’s diverse fortunes as a singer, the albums veers (first gently with a soft electric piano) but less than a minute into Miller’s Part Of The Dance, we are deeply in hard-driving uncompromising jazz-rock, the type that fries your brains when looking out for the sun. This track blazes and smokes all the way throughout its 9-mins+.

The flipside starts on two tracks that could’ve easily come from the better Caravan albums, and it’s a bit surprising to find that Sinclair didn’t write these two. Instant Kitten is a slow developing track that pays tribute to its sister Instant Pussy, but once the second part of the track has arrived., it sounds stunningly like a Caravan track looking for home (like G&P album). The next track, Dedicated To Hugh (after a Vol 2 SM track) starts on weird electronic noises “e tutti quanti” before returning to a Caravan sound (this time Waterloo Lily era), before veering completely insane RIO/improv. Beer As Braindeer is a cosmic theme in its middle section, but takes upon the RIO realm for the opening and losing parts. The latter Immediate Curtain is spooky cosmic track that resembles early Tangerine Dream.

MM’s debut album is a bit of a confusing and uneven affair, but the qualities are so much grater than its flaws, that it cannot be anything else but an essential Canterbury sound, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend any MM albums to a novice Canterbury pilgrim.

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