Over the course of the last year, Shovel has gone from great to amazing. All of the hallmarks that rendered the Phoenix based twosome notable and notably awesome when I first saw them live last summer remain intact, but the serrated edges are now slightly polished, the ramshackle furor has been honed into a furious machine, and frontwoman Dusty Rose now resembles nothing less than a full-fledged rock star.
While Shovel in the flesh is far more visceral than on their admittedly excellent current EP (reviewed in these pages last week), the basic premise stands: Sludgy, noisy, riot grrrl exacerbated and enhanced in a live setting by the purging of any last vestige of contemporary garage rock revival aesthetics and sloppiness. The rabid and muscular delivery of songs, both on the EP and some as-yet-unrecorded, were the sound of two young people reclaiming a past tainted by Days of The New and Godsmack, among others, reminding us why we loved it in the first place, but most importantly Shovel's self-assurance to tell their story, free of caution or doubt.
FEA, a new project from Girl in a Coma's Phanie Diaz and Jenn Alva, mined similar territory as Shovel, but in tandem with a second guitar and bass providing extra musical heft, their noise rock told their own unique autobiography —or not. The band members have said in interviews that part of FEA's M.O. was to just have fun playing in a band again with little to no pressure.
And the quartet's bottom heavy songs were downright fun and played as punk rock with an emphasis on the roll. Sure, there was a lot of shaking and rattling filling in what little spaces remained, but the exhilarating chants of indelible tunes like "No Habla Espanol" and "Pretty Good for a Girl" made mincemeat of their targets just by reducing them to objects of derision and comedy.
That's the tactic that oppressors have been using on their subjects for the entire history of the world and while fighting fire with fire might not be exactly revolutionary (or constructive) FEA's declaration of independence through dismissal turned their performance into a rollicking party train to freedom, and if rock 'n' roll music still has the ability to do that, then hope is very far from lost.