Vertical Scratchers live at The Waiting Room, London

Vertical Scratchers
The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington
May 8th, 2014

It’s with a sense of relief that we greet Vertical Scratchers as a power-trio as they step out onto the small but cosy stage in The Waiting Room tonight.

Vertical Scratchers, you see, have made an album this year – ‘Daughter Of Everything’ on Merge Records (review here) – that over-flows with quirky genius pop songs that are utterly addictive and compelling. They are the latest song-writing vehicle for John Schmersal, part of the stunning 90s noise rock band Brainiac whose incredible run of music was cut cruelly short in its prime with the death of singer Tim Taylor in 1997. After some time John continued to make challenging music with the brilliant Enon before most recently, moving onto Vertical Scratchers.

However, a brief glance at YouTube showed some footage of them playing live as a two-piece and to be honest, the performance wasn’t a patch on the lush pop of the record. It lacked bottom end without a bass player, obviously, and the songs were not shining through in the way that they should have done. Which is why, when the band walk out onstage tonight, that it is with a sense of relief to see them emerge as a three-piece, hardly pausing for breath as they begin to plough through the choice cuts on ‘Daughter Of Everything’ with energy and gusto. Occasionally Schmersal’s soft vocals get lost under the barrage of fizzing guitar and crashing drums but the melodies contained within songs such as ‘Turn Me Out’, ‘Memory Shards’ and ‘Way Out’ cut through like a razor and crackle with energy and static. ‘Pretend U Are Free’ brings things down a little with its Beach Boys-style harmonies and ‘U Dug Us All’ is slimily hypnotic and mesmerizing.

Let’s hope there’s much more to come from Vertical Scratchers. With this band Schmersal has crafted some of his greatest songs to date. Fingers crossed he’ll continue to scratch that itch for some time to come yet.

James Sherry