The quality of punk rock blowing in from the Windy City is currently unprecedented, with a whole generation of bands brought up on The Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio and Smoking Popes releasing killer albums in the last 18 months. Sincere Engineer’s ‘Bless My Psyche’ might just be the best yet, however.
Indeed, the Lawrence Arms comparison is perhaps most apt, as there’s a fatalistic black humour to much of ‘Bless My Psyche’ that mirrors the lyrical futility expressed by Brendan Kelly’s enduring punks.
Opener ‘Trust Me’ is the perfect example; a story of struggling to get your shit together when there’s a dozen more important things to do. It’s a sentiment that is echoed throughout ‘Bless My Psyche’, but which really shines on the re-recorded standout ‘Dragged Across The Finish Line’, with Belos pleading that she’s “Not trying to win… just trying to finish.” Minor victories are cause for celebration on ‘Bless My Psyche’, but the real star of the show is how such triumphs are refracted through Belos’ wry and resigned lyrics.
It sounds great too, with a guest turn by the Hold Steady’s Franz Nicolay on keys helping to fill out the sound beautifully. Ever the professional, his presence can be felt, but never steals the show, instead building nicely on the melodies and hooks Belos already had in place.
Ultimately, the Lawrence Arms may have sung about ‘Apathy and Exhaustion’, but Sincere Engineer have read the book and bought the t-shirt. ‘Bless My Psyche’ is an album about being frazzled and worn down to the quick, but also about keeping the dream alive when all hope is lost. Never have such small wins sounded so celebratory...