Pterodactyl embraces its pop side on its eclectic third LP, Spills Out
Justifiably proud as he is of Pterodactyl’s excellent third album, Spills Out, singer-guitarist Joe Kremer isn’t going to pretend that the release is for everyone.
“I think it’s a confusing record on the first listen,” he admits, on the line from a Fort Worth, Texas, tour stop. “Some of the reviews we’ve seen have seemed like they were written by someone giving it a one-time-through pass. The album isn’t easy to place in any one genre.”
Kremer happily elaborates: “I think a lot of people—especially people who review music for a living—like to hear something specific. This is a broad generalization of course, but it seems like a lot of the time, and especially when you are going through many records a day, that it feels good to have the music kind of all make sense, to have you immediately tapping your foot, or reminding you of some wistful moment back in your teenage years. Anything that’s immediate and visceral and obvious is nice, and while our music may do that for some people, it takes a little more investment to truly get what’s going on.”
Even though that makes Spills Out sound like the most impenetrable thing to float down the river since everything ever recorded by Fantômas, it shouldn’t. Pterodactyl’s first two releases—2007’s Pterodactyl and 2009’s Worldwild—made it clear that the Brooklyn-based trio isn’t exactly averse to the business of experimenting, with both records heavy on majored-in-math-rock guitars, frighteningly feral vocals, and jacked-on-crank drum violence. Spills Out finds the group—which includes drummer-singer Matt Marlin and bassist Jesse Hodges—unleashing their inner pop-music aficionados in endlessly creative ways. Hence, you get “Searchers” mashing vintage alt-country, classic ’60s pop, and ’80s-indebted shoegaze into one breathtaking package. “The Break” pinballs from soft to furious to soft with enough adrenaline to impress the Pixies, “Spills Out” blends ear-damaging white noise with deep-space atmospherics, and “Allergy Shots” does drone with enough darkness to impress the Black Angels.
“The starting point for this record was just playing together in a room,” Kremer says. “There were days and days of practice and recording—coming up with just a whole bunch of stuff. A lot of it was garbage, but after listening to the recordings, there were also a lot of really solid ideas.”
But as much as Pterodactyl is determined to move forward on Spills Out, the frontman notes that the group hasn’t forgotten where it comes from. For proof of that, look no further than the album’s closing track, “Aphasia”, which starts out a rumbling jungle-surf number and ends up a Congotronics-goes-prog hypno-jam.
“That song is kind of a nod to the history of an element of the band that people might have been expecting this time,” Kremer says. “It’s so people who are fans of that element didn’t feel neglected with this record.”
And if they do? Well, screw ’em, for no other reason than they clearly don’t recognize near-genius when they hear it. Kremer might be convinced that Spills Out isn’t for everyone, but the question there is “Why the hell not?”
Pterodactyl plays Electric Owl next Thursday (December 1).