Paint-by-numbers is a cliché that has become such an adequate marker for modern hardcore that it becomes hard to avoid using. Innovation is almost nonexistent, and, when it does creep in, it is often artificial, unimaginative—as if the band is trying too hard to be different. Odd for the sake of oddness is not something that I find interesting. So rare is it that a band is authentic and unique, that when one does arise it can be easy to overlook them. This was the case, at least for me, when it came to Bill Bondsmen. A name that I had seen spread around for a few years, by the time I actually caught them live I didn’t know what to make of it; It seemed spastic, irregular, chaotic. I wasn’t sure what I was watching or listening to. While I wouldn’t say that I disliked the live experience, I don’t think that I was able to enjoy what was happening. Chalk it up to an unwillingness to invest my attention, because when these three seven inches showed up in my mailbox a revisiting of their material turned into a pleasurable experience.
While it would appear that the records could have been released simultaneously, the three EPs were, in fact, self-released between 2012-13. Featuring similar artwork, and all minimalistic in style—with either a one or two color screen-printed cover with no back print—the EPs form a thematic series that has been collected digitally as their Singles Collection 12-13. Modeled after the old-school two track 45s, the records are each quick and to the point; resulting in around 15 minutes of music. There hasn’t been any mention—at least not that I have seen—of compiling the tracks on a single physical format so as of now they have to be picked up individually.
While I am not sure the trajectory of the writing process, or how and when they were recorded—although I do believe they were all recorded in a single session—, for these songs, the first single in the series is strongest. Opening up the first single, is also probably the best song of the six, “Overcrowded Control.” With gothy/post-punkesque leads juxtaposed over an upbeat almost 80s British Hardcore backing, “Overcrowded Control” gives the listener a taste of what can be expected from the remaining five tracks: cohesive disorder. At the 50 second marker the track enters into what I assume is the track’s chorus. This is the standout moment of the song, a simple, but infectious, memorable riff. While there are times where the shrieking vocals seem at odds with the music, it is during these modest driving moments that the vocals are the most impacting. The B-side, “(Untitled),” sees the band entering into a much more experimental territory. It is also in “(Untitled)” that the vocals show the most range, lowering the register a bit and shouting more than screaming. The songs compliment each other well, and are a strong kick of for the series.
Things take a slight turn with the second EP, Nineteen/Things Fall Apart. While I struggle to find a serious objective difference between this EP and the other two, there is something that feels a bit stiffer in these songs. “Things Fall Apart” emerges as the more enjoyable of the two, but in the end this is the EP of the three that I will revisit the least. What can be said of the two songs, however, is that they blend with each other well, leaving a unified stand-alone unit.
In the final addition the series, things are picked back up; ending as strong as it began. With the first track, “Dead,” Bill Bondsman again seamlessly blend discordant, chorus-drenched melodies over solid, driving riffs. As far as production is concerned, the three EPs are recorded in the exact manner they should be—no complaints at all. With a tinge of both gloss and rawness, the recording quality strikes a pleasing balance between lo-fi and hi-fi. The vocals, backing guitars, and drums distort in an aggressive and forceful manner, leaving enough headroom for the lead guitars to glimmer. Everything feels collected nicely, without preventing room for certain elements to rise above the rest. All in all, these are three solid releases, more than worthy of a listen and/or purchase.