From the outset of Shovel's self-titled debut cassette, it's clear that the band's roots lie in the various scenes of the late-'80s Pacific Northwest that spawned, most influentially, Riot Grrrl and grunge rock. Of course, these movements were instrumental in shaping the aesthetic of the alternative rock that defined much of the '90s, but by limiting their source material to the music that has endured since then, Shovel creates an idyllic, albeit not entirely accurate, portrait of the era in which Hole's Pretty on the Inside sold more copies than Dig or Silverchair.
Opener "Mosquito Repellent" lays it all on the table — the fusion of Black Sabbath and Black Flag, Dusty Rose's alternating sweet and scabrous vocals, and even that little burnt rubber guitar hook from Nirvana's "Very Ape." "Space Heater" adds, in equal proportions, more dissonance and catchy melodies, while "Personal Bones" showcases drummer Ward Reeder's ability to swing and pummel his way through a groove. "Cloneblood," which is perhaps the EP's highlight, takes everything Shovel has to offer and stuffs it into a brief package, which is to say it sounds like Kim Gordon screaming along to a Stooges tape that was dropped in a swimming pool and left there.
Though none of these songs possess musical qualities that would sever ties with Shovel's influences, they are fantastic on their own and Rose injects enough of her own personality into the material to propel it to the level of achievement of the band's finest predecessors.