Vertical Scratchers: Dynamic Soundscapes, Psychedelic Influences, and Left-of-Center Melodies
Vertical Scratchers come with one helluva goddamn resume. John Schmersal is a former member of '90s synthpunk luminaries Brainiac (and Enon and Crooks on Tape and a touring member of Caribou, but who's keeping track?), and partner Christian Beaulieu has put in his time with Triclops! and Anywhere. Their debut album Daughter of Everything was released by the venerable North Carolina label Merge just a few weeks ago, and features a guest spot from Guided by Voices' frontman Robert Pollard.
Merge Records John Schmersal of Vertical Scratchers.
All of which is reason enough to pick up their LP or check them out when they hit up the Hard Rock Cafe as part of the Viva PHX festival on Friday, March 7.
But -- and this sucks -- it makes it just as easy for some listeners to dismiss them, too. "Veteran musician" too often is conflated with "coasting on former glories," and the concern that the folks behind the record aren't doing something new or exciting. That concern here, though, is criminally misplaced.
Schmersal and Beaulieu seem reenergized in each other's company, and the brevity and urgency of the Daughter of Everything fifteen tracks sounds like the work of people who have just discovered a taste for snappy, hooky, slightly left-of-center melody.
To be sure, the guest spot from the irrepressible and ageless Robert Pollard seems like no accident. The Vertical Scratchers' efforts recall a slightly better-produced Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes-era Guided by Voices in the best possible way: a million ideas crammed into two minutes of song, as influenced by late sixties British psychedelia as they are Wire-brand punk.