As if there aren’t enough indie rock groups coming out of Brooklyn these days, three dudes who met at Oberlin College migrated to the small Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint a few years back, bringing with them an abrasive barrage of noise rock. The band—whose first full-length is self-titled, unofficially entitled Blue Jay—has had their share of problems in the past. After a “disastrous” US tour, where their equipment and van were not cooperating, the band recorded out of a makeshift studio in Connecticut—which may, or may not, have been inundated with water. Pterodactyl released some not-so-well-received 7-inches before hooking up with Jagjaguwar imprint Brah and hitting up the Greenpoint studios to record Blue Jay. The release signals a new path for the band, as they hone their skills and impress with some tight, explosive tracks.
Pterodactyl maintains a close connection with label mates and fellow Brooklynites Parts & Labor, even joining them in the studio when P&L recorded their impending release Mapmaker. And Pterodactyl’s raucous delivery certainly draws similarities between these two Jagjaguwar outfits. But where P&L uses noise to dramatic effect, melding melodic electronics with emotional shouting, Pterodactyl goes straight for the gut. Pterodactyl is grating and abrasive. The music is well-constructed, an efficient display of angular guitars and shrill vocals.
As the album opens with “Polio”, relentless pounding drums and dueling guitars cede a guttural sound that rivals Lightning Bolt and Hella. The vocals, which alternate between Joe Kremer and Kurt Beals, screech and squeal to the listeners delight. Pterodactyl proceeds with intensity, but does not lack in diversity. The songs can deviate anywhere from grating thrash to elongated proggy kraut jams. “Esses” takes a page from Modest Mouse. Its krautrock flavor and repetitious riffs succeed at being eerily ubiquitous and pervasive, while the rhythm section goes through a number of ebb and flow crescendos.
Kremer and Beals take a break from the obnoxious squeals and instead deliver a harmony of soft “ohhh”s on “Three Succeed”. The song echoes the incessant nature of “Esses”. The pulsating math rock rhythm and piercing guitars is grating yet infectious at the same time. The album then turns back to thrashing punk as “Ask Me Nicely” delivers an alarming amount of noise and screeching yells. Pterodactyl continues to alternate from blaring noise to melodic math riffs as “Rampage 1” and “Rampage 2” offer a variety of ferocious melodies and impassioned screams.
Pterodactyl will certainly add some allure to the already thriving music scene coming out of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In addition to being the home of fellow noise rocker Parts & Labor, the town is also houses a fledging hipster community, a host of studios, and a bevy of Polish nightclubs being slowly transformed into music venues. The precision and tenacity involved in Pterodactyl’s abrasive sound is alarming. It reminds me of the good old days when Modest Mouse wasn’t penning 3-and-a-half minute pop songs, but letting their eccentric tuning and endless riffs breathe, filling up an 80-minute disc with powerful and unusual rock tunes. Pterodactyl’s debut may not be as good as the pre-major label Modest Mouse material—but it’s pretty damn close.