We have a tendency to take consistency for granted. Like a sunny Southern California day, Pinback have delivered record after record of mightily addictive indie pop since their inception in the late 1990s. Perhaps too melancholic and thoughtful to function as escapist entertainment, that same sense of depth is what made them one of the most reliable bands in indie rock's three-decade history.
On one hand, their fifth album, Information Retrieved, is the logical and accessible realization of a sound Pinback have been developing and refining for over a decade. However, that consistency that we've taken for granted is what makes Information Retrieved such a euphoric surprise; their finest and most fully realized album, a dozen years deep into a career that includes bona fide modern classics like "Good To Sea" and Summer In Abaddon. Simply put, this is better than we ever could have expected. They could have coasted on automatic pilot to another lauded album that likely would have made it onto plenty of year-end lists, but instead they shot the moon, and the result is a major triumph.
The touchstones are still there: Zach Smith's stunningly unique bass guitar acrobatics driving both rhythm and melody in lock-step unison; the incredible immediacy of Rob Crow's voice that could make a phone book sound compelling; and the musical and lyrical interplay between the two of them that made Pinback so special in the first place. The difference now is their exquisite control over dynamics and a greater emotional resonance throughout. It's the most complete and soulful Pinback album by a fair distance, the finest moment in the career of a band whose unfettered brilliance we've come to count on, but will never again take for granted.
Vertical Scratchers is John Schmersal (ex- Brainiac/Enon, live Caribou & Crooks on Tape) and Christian Beaulieu (ex-Triclops!/Anywhere).
One of the most persistent elements you will hear throughout the record is the percussive nature in which the guitars were played and recorded. Guitar playing is vertical scratching, and in this band, the guitar strums are almost louder than the amps. John explains, "Part of the aesthetic we we're establishing when writing Vertical Scratchers songs was to maintain a sense of urgency and raw energy without relying on volume and distortion. I wanted the guitars to sound light and jangle-y and most songs were purposefully sang in a soft falsetto.
Simplicity was the inspiration. Get in the van. Rehearse in the van. Tour in the van. Stay mobile. "I have played in a lot of bands with complicated set ups and implemented technologies," says John. "I also do a lot of recording and editing on computers of music/audio. So, part of the longing for simplicity was about streamlining the ideas to be as organic and real time as possible." This impulse to keep things moving is reflected in the songs themselves. Most Vertical Scratchers' songs clock in under the 2 minute mark but, often going in twice as many directions as your average length song. Pop Deception. Think the Kinks with a Buzzcocks brevity.
"The most complicated aspect of the songs are the structures themselves but, only if you tried to learn how to play them. The details are supposed to SOUND easy," continues John. We wanted to strip things down to the bare bones for aesthetics and presentation. Christian and I liked the idea of being able to show up anywhere with next to nothing, jump onto a stage that had whatever drums and guitar set up and be able to play these songs. (not that we plan on showing up everywhere with absolutely nothing) But, the principle is possible.
Daughter of Everything was recorded live in Los Angeles at The Smell in September of 2012. The special guest appearance on lead vocals from Robert Pollard was recorded at Waterloo Sound in Ohio by Todd Tobias.