Pterodactyl: Spills Out
On third album Spills Out, Brooklyn noise-punk mischief-makers Pterodactyl have mutated from their abrasive loft-show roots into a glorious, broken-pop juggernaut. The band's squealing, sweat-soaked art-bustle had rapidly put them alongside contemporaries like Oneida, These Are Powers and Parts & Labor; but Spills Out gently leads the trio towards the uplifting, wistful harmonies of '60s rockers like The Zombies, CSNY and the pre-acid Beatles. Pterodactyl's onomatopoetic barks have been replaced by a luxurious three-part croon; their adenoidal squawk has been expanded to include Spectorian levels of reassuring fuzz. Their most ambitious statement to date, Spills Out is triumphant, melancholic, unapologetically pop.
Welcome to Worldwild! Worldwild is the culmination of a long Pterodactyl adventure, an art-rock odyssey through lush pastures of layered vocal harmonies, mountainous rhythms and thick, dark forests of fuzzy, piercing guitars. On Easter Sunday, 2008, in a rustic motel in backwoods Pennsylvania, one day before crossing the border into Canada, Pterodactyl discovered an experience (Worldwild) that they wanted to keep with them and pursue musically. They felt like they were on a family vacation through a colorful new reality, an experience of solitude and connectedness, alone yet one with everyone. When they returned to Brooklyn Joe began recording demos in his bedroom studio that would be the foundation for most of the material on the record, the sounds and textures of which were beautiful and intriguing, but seemed at first to be at odds with what the band had been known for in the past. But Pterodactyl had found a new, triumphant future in Worldwild: a schizophrenic, desperate idealism that shone through the confusion of the dozens of vocal tracks and guitar samples Joe had put down. The record that results, which they recorded with Jeremy Scott over six months in 2008, showcases many different facets of the band and its influences but maintains a narrative coalescence throughout — a story of hours upon hours singing alone into a bedroom computer, of frustration and redemption, of petty but heated personal battles between friends, melodies running rampant through sleepless summer nights, triumphant moments of trust and cooperation, and a faith and optimism in the spirit of adventure. Pterodactyl is Joe and Matt, Zach (Ex Models, Knyfe Hyts, the Seconds), and Jesse (Twin Powers, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth).
Born in a cornfield in Ohio, Pterodactyl migrated to Brooklyn, where they spent long hours in a flooded basement writing songs that sounded "as if someone plugged them into the nearest available wall socket and flipped the on switch" (Doug Mosurak, Dusted). After releasing two 7-inches, "Friday, During the Day" and "I Can See a River," Pterodactyl bought a sampler, discovered their fascination with thickly layered vocal harmonies, and set to work on what would become their debut full-length record, officially self-titled, but operationally called "Blue Jay." Soon afterward, Pterodactyl were forced to move all their equipment out of New York City and make their temporary home in the basement of a house in rural Connecticut. Most of the songs on their debut record were written on weekend trips to this basement while Pterodactyl waited for a place to play back in the city. When they finally moved into a less flooded and much less spacious room with Brah label-mates Parts & Labor, they put the finishing touches on the songs and recorded it all on a series of very cold days in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The songs on this record range from incessant and infectious ("Polio") to sparse and spacious ("Three Succeed") to epic and redemptive ("Esses"). Combining a noisy post-punk palette with adventurous, arresting lead vocals and harmonies, Pterodactyl's first full-length offers up a compellingly catchy, scratchy sound that is not easily forgotten. In 2006 Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau caught a performance of "Polio" at the tail end of Pterodactyl's set and ranked it the best "tail end" in a month of New York live shows, writing: "A 20-minute Dungen song deserved its 10-minute flute solo. The unknown Pterodactyl repeated the same climactic six-note riff for six minutes. This was so much better than that flute solo."
Pterodactyl is Joe Kremer, Matt Marlin and Kurt Beals. Beals was previously a principal member of early Jagjaguwar band The Union of A Man And A Woman.