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. You couldn’t have a better title than Spills Out because at every turn and every track the album is pushing up the RPMs to the point the engine begins to whine, smoke and threaten to explode.
The last two records were signs a tectonic shift was coming. The band’s sound-searching debut gave way to meditation on the sophomore Worldwild with pagan drums and chants about waterfalls. On Spills Out Pterodactyl is crafting that same deeply satisfying melodic work only with a fueled bent to make plutonium-powered pop. This is at its best in tracks like “The Hole Night.” Easily the most restrained
of the bunch, the early Beatles crooning gives the track a multi-part vocal harmony that bounces nicely off of the crash and roll of drums. The monolithic guitar fuzz and ambient keys lend a constant sense of space as well as motion.
Where you begin to feel the album strain is in a track like “Thorn.” It shapes up like a death-metal intro, all swells and dark drones, but the build lasts a whole minute before breaking. The middle of the song pounds you relentlessly with guitar crashes. It’s like Thor’s hammer gone to town on your head. The six hours it took for singer Jesse Hodges to record the chorale to the song marks a significant investment on the track making the cut. Experimenting with walls of sound makes you walk a fine line, and Pterodactyl here winds up on the wrong side.
Comparison to Parts And Labor when discussing Pterodactyl cannot be avoided; P&L drummer Dan Friel even contributed to Spills Out in some way according to Pterodactyl’s one sheet on the album. Contemporaries they may be, but Pterodactyl is reaching for a bigger, more consuming sound. It’s no doubt risky but not without windfalls for the better part of Spills Out.