The Creature With The Atom Brain is better known as Aldo Struyf; the name may not be instantly recognisable, but if I mention that he played guitar and keys for Millionaire and fulfils synth-playing duties for no less a luminary than Mark Lanegan, you’ll realise that you’ve probably heard something with him playing on it at some point.
It’ll also give you some idea of the sonic pedigree that informs I Am The Golden Gate Bridge, but not quite as much as Struyf’s confessed adoration of The 13th Floor Elevators and The Butthole Surfers; Creature With The Atom Brain make fuzzy stripped-back rock’n'roll noise with a generous helping of weird.
As with all good rock music, the secret is in the melodies. Creature With The Atom Brain have a good ear for riffs that are immensely catchy despite having that “damn, I could play that” simplicity that makes you want to pick up an instrument and join in. I Am The Golden Gate Bridge is the sort of album that you find yourself whistling along to.
At least, I found that I was whistling along to it – and what that says about my mental state, I have no idea, but it may not be entirely positive from a psychiatrist’s viewpoint. Because as catchy as the tunes on I Am The Golden Gate Bridge may be, they’re also kind of schizoid and off-kilter.
Creature With The Atom Brain seem to have a knack of developing simple but slightly jarred rhythms and riffs that either run on longer or repeat sooner than you expect them to, making you feel as if maybe you zoned out for half a second and missed a bit.
The instrumentation of I Am The Golden Gate Bridge adds to the sense of hazy disorientation, too. Guitar riffs, rough and abrasive, crunched up like used tinfoil by distortion pedals of old and dubious provenance; synth patches that you’d be hard pressed to call anything other than evil; monologue mantras and stoned drawls for the vocals, some of which are contributed by Struyf’s buddies Tim “Millionaire” Vanhamel and Mark “Mark Lanegan” Lanegan.
Creature With The Atom Brain make drug music, basically. By that I don’t necessarily mean music made under the influence of drugs (though I wouldn’t want to rule it out, either), nor music advocating the use of drugs. But as an example of the sort of skewed reality that chemically assisted living might create in the world between your ears, I Am The Golden Gate Bridge rates pretty highly.
It also rates pretty highly as a dirty and damaged rock’n'roll album. Creature With The Atom Brain conjure up the vibes of long hot summer days spent strung out in badly-furnished rooms in search of inspiration and cheap alcohol, or bumbling around the strip-joint neighbourhood stoned out of your brain. Just remember what to say when the cops stop you and ask who you are – “I Am The Golden Gate Bridge, man!”