I’m not sure how to describe the Vertical Scratchers show at Brooklyn’s Glasslands last night. It existed on a spectrum somewhere between tedious and pedestrian. John Schmersal’s always been a favorite of ours on this site, and we’ve always worshipped Brainiac and Enon. However, there’s been a gradual fade into mediocrity of the live shows for his projects lately. Our very first show review for this site was for an Enon show at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan. It was a miraculous performance highlighted by the ferocious drumming of Matt Schulz (Holy Fuck). Schulz left now defunct Enon years ago, and Schmersal appeared to struggle to replace him. We unfortunately pointed this out in the infamous drum-track show at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly. Enon and company used a pre-recorded drum track with a try-out drummer playing on top. I know Brenda’s is small and intimate and Philly is a home town, but it was a disappointing moment for loyal fans to say the least.
Presently, Schmersal has two active bands, Crooks on Tape and Vertical Scratchers. The former produced Fingerprint, one of our favorite albums of 2013, while the latter has slowly etched its way into our daily playlists. “Kingdom Come” and “Rainbows” are seriously two of the best songs Schmersal’s ever written. Unfortunately, Crooks on Tape never made it to the NYC/Philly area on its recent tour. We figured the next best thing was rolling into Brooklyn for Vertical Scratchers. Even Schmersal’s joke about the disappearance of their bassist didn’t help fill the void of the live sound. It worked surprisingly well on the record, but the sound was drowned out and nearly indecipherable in the live setting. And, of course, Glasslands has garnered an excellent reputation for having an excellent sound system. In the end, it was no fault of Christian Beaulieu’s capable pair of sticks behind the drum kit, even in light of our Matt Schulz spotting in the crowd.