Sound — 10
This album fills out a set of speakers like few others. The sound gets overwhelming, each guitar, synth, and keyboard part slowly rising to the top, clashing with each other, crashing on the shore, and then gracefully pulling back into the murk. The album is a swirling, head-spinning experience, but doesn't sink into a garbled mess. It cuts clear and loud when it has to, and each track is held firmly and tightly in place by Matt Cameron's drums. It's not stated, but Gregg Keplinger (who does some additional drum work on 'Keppy's Lament'), Matt Cameron's long time friend and drum tech, almost certainly has something to do with the drum sounds on this album. Matt's drums are always full and powerful, and really prominent in the mix. No one gets as good a sound from their kit as him. John McBain and Matt Cameron's guitar tones are so interesting, variant, and fitting to each song, it's not even fair. It'll make you sit around all day with your guitar trying to figure out what the did. The bass is thick and tight, not booming. Fellow ex-Soundgarden members Ben Shepherd and Kim Thayil also show up to contribute. Ben, the former lead vocalist for Wellwater before departing after their debut album, plays bass on "Keppy's Lament". Kim Thayil, guitar genius and all around cool dude, lends some great (and unexpected) guitar atmosphere to "C my self and Eye" And what a tight unit. Much like Soundgarden, this band navigates complex song structures with a grace and taste that is almost impossible to believe. Sure, lots of bands do the odd time and rhythmically challenging structures, but few people can make it sound so please and just right as Matt Cameron can. You really can't see the feel of the songs being any different; they have to be this way. The balance between hard and soft is so seamless and beautiful. The dynamics and moods of the song aren't dependent on distortion or heavy choruses. The impact of each song weaves in and out, the harder moments rise in and fall out with hard to define endpoints, each peak and climax more easily defined upon completing the song. The effect is similar to dreams; while you're in it, you are floating through the story without much understanding, but when you wake up, the main ideas and feelings are much clearer. It's such a unique and rare approach to pop music and it's entirely refreshing.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics of the album aren't meant to be inspiring or deep. They words play off of each other and dodge meaning to create the same feeling that much of the music gives you: you are always right on the edge of reasoning and understanding what's happening, but then it slips away and all you are left with is that moment where it was all clear. Many of the songs are so successfully fun without being a joke, much like Blue Oyster Cult. On 'tick Tock 3 O'clock, ' guest vocalist Derek Burns recalls in a matter of fact way: "I piloted my own motor cars/conversing with the man from Mars/Frog and toad are friends," bringing to mind BOC's 'Subhuman." The albums also self-consciously dives into psychedelic reminiscings if the height of flower-powered acid love songs. Matt Cameron recounts a romantic encounter with some of the most innoecnt sounding turns of phrases you'll ever hear in rock and pop music: "She said 'I know you'/ and I wanted her to know me/ She said 'it's beautiful'/ and I asked her to show me/ We walked through gardens where the flowers sang in colors/ We touched the things that are only sometimes touched by others/" and then goes on to say "She spoke in words that told things that really matter". Earlier, on "Felicity's Surprise", guest vocalist Wes C. Addle (a pseudonym Eddie Vedder masquerades under)questions the unexpected end of a relationship by saying "I've been you and you've been me/ Why the suprise, Felicity? / You seem torn/ Let's go home." No where on this album s there a unjustified bitter tone or word. All sadness is mourned, but accepted as necessarily for the beautiful to exist. Matt Cameron does an admirable job singing throughout most of the album. His voice is very pleasant and well inflected. He doesn't have the power many full time vocalists do, but he does have the sense of phrasing that many of those same people lack. The songs never require him to belt out huge, bold lines, or to make lyrical hooks and lines very convincing. He voice really works well for the album, and he has many great harmonizing points throughout. Besides Eddie Vedder and Derek Burns, Gerry Amandes does vocals on "What Becomes of the Clock" to great effect.
Overall Impression — 9
Wellwater Conspiracy is by far the best thing to come out of the demise of seminal rock band Soundgarden. This album certainly isn't a fluke, as Wellwater's other three albums are gems as well. Unfortunately, Wellwater Conspiracy seems to be finished for good. But it's hard to feel bad when such an unexpected pairing from ex-Soundgarden and ex-Monster Magnet members unite and create such unexpected music.