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Wednesday, May 30,2001

Wellwater Conspiracy

By
SoundCheck

Wellwater Conspiracy
Wellwater Conspiracy
The Scroll and its Combinations / TVT

The third release by former Soundgarden and current Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron and former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain is a hodgepodge of '60s psychedelia, whacked-out vocals, catchy‹yet obscure‹covers, and toned-down cameos by former Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil and some guy going by "Wes. C. Addle."

Deriving their name from a myth regarding a '70s hipster who wanted to lace Minnesota's drinking water with L.S.D., Wellwater Conspiracy unfurls a Scroll that combines everything from Eastern-tinged guitar riffs with backing vocals that sound like The Chipmunks on helium ("The Scroll"), to droning, happy-go-lucky loony tunes with animated textures ("Tick Tock 3 o'clock"). Their re-creation of the '60s Dutch band the Q65's "I Got Nightmares" is bare-bones, pre-punk rock 'n' roll complete with crunchy rhythm guitar, meaty percussion, ominous giggles and bestial howls. "Of Dreams," a Steve Morgan cover, captures the late-'60s vibe that resonated when bubble-gum pop collided with mind-altering chemicals, and rock's elders were stumbling through "silk and satin shadows" and reading too much Lewis Carrol. Characteristic of the album's vocal musical chairs, Cameron and McBain recruited Derek Burns and Paul Burbak from Cat from Dog Mountain for both "Tidepool Telegraph"‹which sports a Hendrix-esque intro and a crude semi-psychedelic sound‹and "Tick Tock 3 o'clock."

Despite its Pacific Northwest roster, Scroll is more Austin Powers than Eddie Vedder, except for "Felicity's Surprise"‹which should be renamed "Wellwater's surprise." While the catchy, melodic intro has a hold-hands-around-the-fire folky flavor, there's no mistaking the vocals of "Wes. C. Addle" for, yes, Eddie Vedder. The Pearl Jam frontman saps the psychedelic strength of the album‹the moment his warbling voice hits the speaker, one is yanked from the cool London fog of the '60s to the grungy Northwest drizzle of the '90s.

-P.W. Miller

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