After a debut album full of spastic noise-mongering—and a sophomore disc that’s far heavier and more abstract—it was about time Pterodactyl made a full-on pop record. Spills Out is the Brooklyn band’s third full-length, and it replaces many of the more challenging elements of 2007’s Pterodactyl and 2009’s Worldwild with relatively manicured hooks, cohesive arrangements, and random stabs at crafting classic, pop-rock earworms.
That said, it’s still pretty nuts. “School Glue” is built on an unsteady foundation of yammering drones and piercing melodies that aim for the rafters on Mars. It doesn’t hit anywhere near that height, though. Joe Kremer’s once-spastic whine is reduced to a robotic singsong that replicates itself like a viral wallpaper pattern. Pterodactyl has always owed a debt to its friend and aesthetic benefactor, Parts & Labor, but that resemblance is flagrantly proud on spartan art-pop confections like “The Break” and “Aphasia.” And the two ambient, instrumental interludes, “Spills In” and “Spills Out,” do nothing but fill dead air.
As usual, Pterodactyl is at its best when it’s trying to make itself extinct. The album’s high point, “The Hole Night,” is a dizzying fit of self-deconstruction full of unhinged drumming and ghostly vocals: “You take it all apart / to see if you can find that wasted moment,” Kremer sings, leading a rich harmony that glances peripherally at The Zombies. The song “Zombies” is an even more obvious clue to what Pterodactyl has been listening to lately, even though it sounds even more like ELO as reproduced by a dot-matrix printer. A little has been lost in Pterodactyl’s act of translating itself into a pop band—but overall, Spills Out manages to keep it all in.