July 23, 2004
BY JASON SONGE
It's rare when the cover version of a song is better than the original. Not because it's so much "better" or an increase of quality. Because the new song expands the ideas in the original so that it ends up where it should have gone. Examples of this are Foo Fighters' covers of Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" and Killing Joke’s "Requiem." Also, Smashing Pumpkins did a great job of streamlining The Cars' "You're All I've Got Tonight" and Missing Persons’ "Destination Unknown."
Analog Missionary had the same talent Friday night at Checkpoint Charlie's. On Tori Amos’ "Caught a Lite Sneeze," the rock quartet from Silverhill, AL, jammed out on the song's ethereal and highly rhythmic qualities. Tension rose as lead singer Anstrom repeated the haunting last lyrics: "Just bring your son." Amos should have done the same. The cover possessed an emotional intensity Amos didn't create. On AM's cover of Rush's "The Big Money," they extracted life from the song by extending it. Anstrom was joined by bassist/keyboardist Tony Novak, drummer The Mark, and guitarist Kevin Kaisier.
Missionary played a few enjoyable originals, but they mostly stuck to covers. Either way, the band encoded their sultry, dark, and ambient mood onto the tunes. Any depressing band from the '80’s +U2=. Their embrace of the darkness was helped by Anstrom's soaring vocals and Kaisier's screeching guitar notes. Seriously—Anstrom had the same range as Amos. In addition, she's the most technically proficient theremin player I’ve seen. She was very delicate as she moved her fingers inch by inch to summon notes out of it.
The ten year-old band was very into their gear. It looked expensive. It reflected their seriousness and embrace of the technical over the earthy. The Mark had an extensive electronic kit—the one at Guitar Center that has so many settings I could spend days on it.
Anyway, AM played a good set. The subtle complexities were a joy, even if I didn't catch all of them. The place was full, and the band got lots of applause after each song. They should have engaged the audience more, but I can understand why they didn't. Some doofases in the front were laughing loudly while the band played.