Release Date: Nov 15, 2011
Record label: Brah Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Brooklyn-based trio Pterodactyl is most often cited as fitting into the noise punk genre, but the truth is that beyond the barrage of hyperactive sound, there lies a band with a melodic sensibility. Granted, it takes a session of attentive listening to pinpoint it; zone out for a few seconds and it’s easy for one track of grit, fuzz and tension to bleed into another. Album opener “School Glue” is the best example of something approaching a pop tune, with its harmonious vocals battling a wall of crashing drums and relentless guitar.
Science tells us that the Pterodactyl was a flying, beaked dinosaur. In other words, some freakish looking creature with wings, which could be mistaken for anything from a bat with Psoriasis to an iguana in a Toucan Sam costume. It most likely squawked. For a band as tremendously eclectic as this Brooklyn via Ohio pysch-folk-pop three-piece, the name of a winged dinosaur is as fitting as anything I could ever dream up.
The idea of genre is so impossible anymore: bands perversely make fools of any would-be taxonomists, dancing through enough styles to basically outrun our descriptive language. But hey, that's kind of music's beauty, isn't it? It can drift right out of criticism's reach (or capitalism's, for that matter). .
Focus too long on any one part of Spills Out, the third LP from psych-splattered Brooklynite post-punk manglers Pterodactyl, and you risk losing track of the rest of it. The sprawling set from the shapeshifting band is bristling with basement-show energy one minute, stacking haunting Zombies-style harmonies the next. The pixelated, post-everything whoosh of their earlier, more forceful records is still very much in evidence on Spills Out, but it's as though their turn-on-a-dime cubism's been given the SpinArt treatment, globs of melody pooling at its edges.
Noise-rock bands usually wait until their third album to make their "pop" record, so Brooklyn's Pterodactyl are right on schedule, releasing their most immediately accessible album yet. They haven't forgotten their experimental roots - the songs still teem with overactive drums and mathy guitar lines - but they've also strengthened their hooks. Guitarist/singer Joe Kremer adopts his best Brian Wilson falsetto, while the other members supply sticky vocal harmonies to make bright Zombies-style pop with a wistful core.
In a 2007 interview with TMT, frontman Joe Kremer admitted that Pterodactyl’s walls of shred-a-tonic trebly noise might just be a phase, that there was “a chance that [their] music will get more pleasant, as time goes on. ” In advance of Spills Out, underappreciated drummer Matt Marlin made similar remarksto Boston University’s Daily Free Press, saying the new album “bridges a new excitement with slightly poppy, more sunnier stuff with the brooding, moody noisy stuff of the past. ” So it’s not surprising that Spills Out is a slightly sunnier, more pleasant endeavor than their self-titled debut.
Pterodactyl's third album demonstrates two key things off the bat. First, they're perfectly at home in the world of indie-as-huge-sounding-singalongs with guitar lines that are part shoegaze and part Wall of Sound. Second, they're so at home that it's nearly impossible to separate this from its larger context, after a decade-plus of popular successes such as the Flaming Lips in their 21st century guise, the Arcade Fire, and many other bands besides.
In the video for the song “School Glue,” Pterodactyl recreates that scene from Superman where Superman’s dad traps the bad guys in a weird space-mirror. Spills Out, the band’s third album, holds the tracks in much the same way. These are songs bristling with dark energy, unconstrained and galloping. But as the band pushes at the boundaries you can feel the strain at the edges.