After Chrome disbanded in 1983, the subsequent solo careers of its two members left little doubt about where most of the creative energies in the pioneering San Francisco proto-industrial synth-rock group resided. Helios Creed’s eight solo LPs are scary stuff, dark psychedelia filled with blasts of chaotic guitar and disorienting tape manipulations. Damon Edge’s solo work, on the other hand, is kind of like Count Floyd shouting “scary noises!” where something frightening should actually happen. (Edge died in late 1995.)
After X-Rated Fairy Tales and the much better Superior Catholic Finger (later issued on a single CD by Cleopatra), Creed signed to Amphetamine Reptile, which not only brought the veteran a cachet of indie cool, but paired him with rhythm sections capable of rooting Creed to time signatures found in the real world.
The primary pitfall of Creed’s space-rock is that its intensity goes way down when there’s more space than rock, and hence the quality of the cut-up sound collages can fluctuate wildly from one project to the next. Lactating Purple‘s vast stretches of disconnectedness can be too trippy, even for Creed. And while you never expect to hear someone say “You know, I was humming side one of Half Machine Lip Moves the other day,” Rey Washam’s drumming on Boxing the Clown is too recent a reminder of how powerful that familiar flattened wah-wah guitar sound can be when there’s a song chugging away under the thick strata of dissonance.
Thanks to bassist Paul Kirk and drummer Paul Della Pelle, Kiss to the Brain is more successful. This time, the guitar pops up as more than just a guidepost, and the contrast makes the moments of otherworldly radio static, menacing vocorder distortions and sci-fi freakouts all the more effective. Having blasted through the comparatively formulaic “Malavia Meltdown” and “Throw Away the Rind,” the respite Creed offers in the Pink Floyd Animals-like acoustic intro of the mini-epic title track seems all the more inspired.
Signing to the gothic/industrial label Cleopatra seems to have encouraged Creed to unwisely emphasize that side of his music. For someone who likely has more acid in his system than a Sears Die-Hard, a little creative structure goes a long way, and the drum machines that click time on Busting Through the Van Allen Belt and Cosmic Assault are no match for the bands he had in his AmRep years. That’s not to say these aren’t fine records — and it’s true there is a certain degree of hair-splitting when comparing fairly similar works of menacingly psychedelic proto-industrial noise — just that they are more likely to fall prey to the “heard one Helios Creed record, heard ’em all” sentiment. Still, the long moments of atmospheric disassociation here are among the prettiest things he’s ever done. Could Helios Creed be mellowing in his old age?