Label: Hopeless Records
Released: 22nd September 2023
Chicago’s Sincere Engineer are fast establishing themselves as the latest band to break through from the punk rock underbelly, following the likes of the Menzingers, Spanish Love Songs and Joyce Manor into a wider audience. That they’ve been the scene’s best-kept secret should come as little surprise – they’ve wowed the punk rock mecca The Fest for several years, while a debut full-length on Red Scare Industries adds to their credentials.
Cheap Grills, Deanna Belos and Co’s third full-length, more than fulfils this early promise, broadening the scope and upping the production to make for a satisfying collection of alt-rock hits. Belos’ vocals remain rough-hewn – perfect for retaining their early fans – while her lyrics – which have always possessed a degree of self-effacing humour – have never been sharper or more prescient.
Indeed, it’s this humour – blackly comedic and delivered with a healthy dose of Midwest charm – that shines brightest. ‘Fireplace’ burns with caustic wit, with Belos eviscerating – somewhat literally – her mortal enemy as she imagines them suffering in more and more ridiculous scenarios. Fellow Chicagoan’s Alkaline Trio will no doubt be proud of such a macabre tale. ‘Inside My Head’, meanwhile, finds Belos searching for the will to live, scanning through the mundane rooms of the house with telling, wry humour.
Pop-punk gems are liberally scattered throughout; ‘Code Orange’ is a mosh-pit anthem that sparkles from start to finish, while ‘A Touch of Hell’ shows that, even with the corners of their sound smoothed out, Sincere Engineer still pack a punch. Better still, a punked-up and electrified take on last year’s excellent ‘Library of Broken Bindings’ serves as a prominent and powerful centre point to the album.
As a record, ‘Cheap Grills’ has a huge amount of heart, too, and there are plenty of moments where Belos’ honesty and passion come to the fore – not least of all on the disarming closing track, ‘Blind Robin’. Sincere in nature as well as name, Belos and her bandmates have delivered an album filled with depth and humour, and which cements their position as one of the most exciting acts on Planet Punk.