Pterodactyl – Spills Out


Artist: Pterodactyl
Album: Spills Out
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Rating: 7.1

Spills Out belongs to that rare species of music that could be called indie-shred, if that wasn’t such a dumb thing to write or to say out loud. Despite all the cloaking noise and pop melodies, there’s a lot of right kind of overplaying here: Matt Marlin’s drumming refuses to stick to basic time-keeping, and the overlapping guitars sound like a tangle between J. Mascis and the Scary Monsters–era lead playing of Robert Fripp. All, somehow, nestled into the maximalist pop songs that populate this album.

Of course, with all those elements competing at all times, success is not guaranteed.When it all works, songs like “Allergy Shots” and “The Break” are the result, both of which put me in mind of music that falls between Calgary band Women and that very same band’s earlier incarnation as Veritas, an instrumental prog outfit where songwriter Pat Flegel worked out exactly what it was he liked about music. The guys in Pterodactyl seem to have followed a similar path through the wilderness of prog and the excesses of art rock, but have seized onto the skeletal structure provided by pop songwriting to give
shape to their music.

While the songwriting necessarily lacks tightness, due to the experimentational tugging at the seams that bursts out of the competing instruments and voices, there is a pleasure in the layered stimulation of the noisier songs on the record, such as “School Glue.” The ornate collisions that define those songs occasionally relax into blissfully simple melodic songs such as “Thorn,” where Marlin’s drums finally cease their assault and the guitar noise washes under the vocals instead of complicating them.

Technical music can so often be incredibly boring, but I’ve never subscribed to the idea that there is an inverse relations between high competence on an instrument and songwriting ability. Pterodactyl is attempting to make those two elements meet, and have moments of real success on Spills Out: maybe being able to play your guitar isn’t such a bad thing.

-Nathan Ripley

watch video for school glue

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