Hey Transdreamer Records, I know Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam is a friend of mine. Wellwater Conspiracy is no Pearl Jam. Branded as “members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Monster Magnet” repeatedly in the press release, Wellwater Conspiracy brings together the current drummer of Pearl Jam (and former drummer for Soundgarden) Matt Cameron, with the founding guitarist of Monster Magnet, John McBain. Then there is this other guy, Glenn Slater, but judging by the number of times he is mentioned in the press release, he doesn’t really seem that important.
With credentials like that, one might expect, and rightly so, for this record to really rock, or at least roll … a little. Unfortunately, this is one of those side projects where generally solid musicians get all experimental on your ass. I’m all for experimenting. Experimenting is good. Except when the experiment fails. Then it’s not so good. Then we’re just left with a mess like New Coke, the McRib, or W’s Clear Skies Initiative. Matt (of Pearl Jam & Soundgarden), John (of Monster Magnet), other guy (of parts unknown) — why would you do that to us?
You would think that by a fourth full-length record Wellwater would have figured out the general direction of the experiment. You would be wrong. Track one is a jangly toe tapper, track two is a tribute to psychedelia, track four is a mid-tempo ballad, are you noticing a pattern — or a lack thereof? Track six is an interesting synth/electronic number, and I thought track eight was going to be where it all came together. Then it all fell apart. The new record aspires to be part Beatles, part ’70s soft rock, part space rock, and it would appear no parts just plain old rock. Aside from the difficulties in steering a rudderless ship, many of the problems seem to stem from John McBain’s (founding guitarist of Monster Magnet) voice, more specifically the atonality of it. It is clear by track two that McBain was not responsible for the thundering lyrics of “Space Lord,” Monster Magnet’s (of which he was the founding guitarist) 1998 Power Trip hit.
If I’m being unnecessarily harsh, forgive me. I don’t want to come off sounding negative because this wasn’t what I expected. I’m negative because Wellwater Conspiracy didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. It must be incredibly liberating to have these side projects, to be able to put away the power chord formulas of your day jobs and to just do anything, and from what I’ve heard here I mean anything. But really, do we need to document these diversions? Aren’t these digressions best left to those jam sessions that we all hear about, which then become the stuff of legend, leaving behind no evidence to prove otherwise? The only conspiracy here is who gave the green light to this project.