Pelican / These Arms Are Snakes – Gold Diggers / Pink Mammoth

3 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head Records

Produced by: Chris Common (mixed by)

I’m split on this release, no pun intended.  It’s hard to listen to it with fresh ears, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to; that is, I can only hear these tracks in comparison to their originals.  Given the setup, though – several years into both Pelican’s and These Arms Are Snakes’ careers, they team up for a split release where they each cover a track from each of their first releases – I’d say such a comparison is unavoidable.  I mean, maybe you’re a fan of one band or the other and so not familiar with one side of this, and maybe maybe you’ve heard of the groups and find this single at random as your first listen… but damn you, first timers, I can’t assess how these songs sound to your precious virgin ears.

So: TAAS’ cover of Pelican’s Mammoth, from their first EP, retitled here as Pink Mammoth, is… awesome.  It takes a moment to gasp at the lack of the HEAVY rumble of the original – this is done up more as a shoegaze version – but I kinda love that the re-do is longer than the original.  And Snakes “fixed” the sort of slightly off-timed drumroll that repeats in Pelican’s version, which, though I love the song mightily, never has really synced up to my ears.  And I’m sure I’m making this up, but by adding some more complexity to the track, TAAS seems to gather up some cues from some of the other songs from Pelican’s EP and sprinkle them in.  The original is an almost incomparable statement of heavy-music intent, so Snakes did right by not trying to top it, and actually turning it into their own, glorious thing.

Pelican’s cover of Snakes’ Diggers Of Ditches Everywhere, though, retitled as Gold Diggers – and with Snakes’ Steve Snere again offering his vocals – is… not awesome.  Ditches is a relatively quicker paced Snakes track, and so it gets slowed down to Pelican pace here, but then they suck out some of the intricate guitar and bass interplay for an extra layer of distortion.  Minusing that, with the changed speed, Snere’s vocals lack bite, and the track fails to impress, either as a standalone, or as a retake.

While TAAS cover had me flipping back and forth between the two original / new versions with the delight of comparing and contrasting, Pelican’s cover is more of a slog, and gets very over-shadowed by the first version.