Rock Illuminati

Mar 3, 1999 at 12:00 am

So where is the spirit and elemental sense of adventure that once inhabited the psychedelic rock phenomenon of the ’60s? Gone forever, methinks. At the same time, there are bands – both old and new – that approximate the novelty and invention of the dawning of psychedelia. On its sophomore effort, the Wellwater Conspiracy creates a multifaceted sound that lurks somewhere between the realms of Seattle grunge and the psychedelic garage.

Showcasing the talents of ex-Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain and former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, the Wellwater Conspiracy is an adventurous studio project steeped in wild and woolly ’60s rock. Playing a number of instruments besides the drums, Matt Cameron is a surprisingly able singer who echoes the emotive style of his old Soundgarden bandmate, Chris Cornell. Instrumentalist McBain exhibits an expansive guitar vocabulary, creating several acid-flashback moments amid the band’s hard rock haze. Using vintage electronic keyboards, fuzz-ridden guitars, tribal drumbeats and fairly melodic songwriting, these guys hark back to a cosmic time when rock music was simpler, more mysterious and plenty of fun. On the song "Compellor" – and several other selections – Cameron and McBain replicate the strange, urgent rock sounds that litter the recently released Nuggets compilation of ’60s psychedelia. That means plenty of ominous organ riffs and fiery, distorto-guitar licks as worthwhile counterpoint to their passionate vocal incantations, shrieks and pleas.

Yes, peel back the layers of today’s alternative/indie/post-metal music and you’ll still find some psychedelic rock. It just isn’t the innocent revelation it once was.