Lucas Chong, the vocalist for this five-man punk band, is not from Los Angeles. I thought he was, but he and the other members of Gladstone are from Melbourne, Australia. It's not a compliment or insult, just something I thought. Considering a good deal of Gladstone's forebears, whether they want to admit it or not, hail from L.A., I'd take it as the former. Granted, screaming doesn't exactly lend itself to cultural or geographic specificity (except Japanese 70s hard rock, WHOO!) so maybe I'm just a sucker for L.A. punk.
These guys are not suckers. Bear Bones is Gladstone's debut EP, seven post-anything core tracks of Chong's anti-everything lyrics, drummer Steve Rogers nearly breaking his wrists on the set and heavy but not too-heavy stringsmenship from the other guys. The biggest draw on all the tracks is Rogers' drumming, which is very prominent and I'm not even sure it was meant to be mixed that way. A bit of a slight is Michael Chen on bass; Rogers sounds like a key player on every track while Chen sounds woefully underappreciated on them, which is weird for a rhythm section. Gladstone notes they recorded in a week in such a way as to capture their live sound, and I'll say this, throw some crowd shouts in there and maybe just a bit of static and I'd have trouble telling the difference between this and a recorded show.
The music is good and its players competent, but the band needs to craft a more distinct sound. You can hear influences of jazz, metal and more melodic rock in some of the songs. "Patron Of Lost Causes" and "Whitney, We Have A Problem" are standout tracks thanks to their versatility but for the most part the band seems to have trouble developing their own style. It is not a good sign when one of the best moments on the EP is a sample from The Slammin' Salmon. Still, they pick themselves up; Chong sounds enraged during the closer "Here Endeth The Lesson,” and despite the musical lull it represents the band at their best. When he screams "WHY CAN'T YOU WHY CAN'T YOU STOP (couldn't understand)", you want to keep doing whatever you're doing so he'll scream at you some more.
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