City Paper is not for tourists
When Ben Donnelly reviewed Pterodactyl’s self-title debut for Dusted Magazine two years ago, he hung a this-but-not-that description on the Brooklyn band. “Tight…but not stop-on-a-dime tight…not suddenly-loud-suddenly-soft tight,” he wrote, adding, a sentence later, that he found the band’s music to be “mechanical but not quite mathematical.” It’s the sort of sentence that gives music critics the reputation of suffering from a collective case of inscrutability. That Donnelly was dead-on with those descriptions didn’t much matter—at least to anyone who might have happened on his review before listening to the record he was talking about. In this case, as in many other examples of unreadable rock-nerd speak, Donnelly’s meandering description had a lot to do with Pterodactyl’s own insistence on being relatively hard to parse. Its debut was something of an enjoyable trainwreck: a backbone made of repetitive, stripped-down guitar lines interrupted only by blasts of squealing noise and driven forward by blistering drum parts. For the group’s follow-up, Worldwild, Pterodactyl has found a way to bring down the chaos a bit, focus its noise into well-timed, complimentary highlights, and refine its concept of melody into something which could, if the band let it, carry its efforts. “Old Clouds,” for example, finds the group plucking its way through a reverb-y intro that first expands into a riff that repeats in a short cycle (with bits of noise serving as commas rather than periods) and finally spreads into a very satisfying, triumphant vocal melody. It’s driven forward not by Matt Marlin’s aggressive drumming (though that’s there) but by well-matched guitar chords that never once descend into the realm of easy or cheesy-sounding. Better yet, “Easy Pieces” finds the band stripping away both the battery and the riffage in an effort to explore a simple synth-y melody that seems to reveal an intimate familiarity with late-period Boredoms and/or Aphex Twin. “Lawrence” is also something of an exercise in self-denial—and though it’s totally reliant on layers of acoustic and electric guitar parts, what really carries the weight here are the high-pitched sing-songy vocals. Singing may not yet be the signature of this still-very-loud band, but it’s possible Pterodactyl could develop in that direction—and maybe even inspire some nonsensical rock critic blathering.