SOS - A Guide to Better Living
316 Productions
Heavy Groove Rock
17 songs (59'21")
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Alex

After you go on a four-year hiatus and finally secure the drummer of your dreams, you might as well self-release the album with 17 tracks. The energy must have been bursting through the seams of the New York (Queens) outfit SOS when they were putting together A Guide to Better Living, and you tend to be productive when you are energized. I wouldn’t know if this SOS album will guide you to a better life, but at least a solid display of heavy rock’n’roll is guaranteed to a listener.

Those who are trying to get their own rock band started might very well take a peek at how SOS is doing it. This is what you want to sound like, but it will only come with experience, and 250 shows are the testament to that. A Guide to Better Living is full of crunchy groovy rockers, like the inconspicuous opener Bumblef*ck, Counsel to the Crown and Dead Before Noon. The guitars are driven just enough to make it understood this is a rock record, but without overdistortion, which would make this music sound sludgy, or obscure the obvious up front melodies (Star Killers). There are no complex technical riffs here, time changes on a dime or a lot of twin guitar harmonizing. This is as straightforward as they come, yet dripping with the aforementioned energy and melodic groove. All that said, SOS is also old school, without any modern downtuning and note chugging.

The variety in the record comes from the band reaching out to the other genres popular in the NYC underground. Adam Mastrosimone’s vocals (also on bass) may have a touch of “tear” stuck in his throat (Bumblef*ck), but mostly are permeating with full-on punk attitude. There are indeed direct fast punk numbers here (Hopeless), or something with the darker edge (The Wedding Guy), almost Billy Idol-like (or is it just the name of the song that gives me the association). There are a few songs with the choppier ‘core rhythms (the beginning of Everything Must Go and Scenic Route), a couple of guitar solos not pretending to be a guitar hero, but signifying the rock presence again (Bumblef*ck, Venice), a social commentary and polka beat (Venice) and showcasing the softer side with soulful crooning (Everything Must Go, Slut). Brooding Amputee closes the proceedings.

Travis Harrison was not only that missing piece of a drummer, but also provided the studio and production very fitting for SOS. Not squeaky clean, but not overly dirty either, the vocals are up front making lyrics audible, rhythm section is forceful and percussive, guitars carrying the music forth.

This could be the record that would appeal to the rock fans of many different shades. From punk to stoner to hard classic sounds, SOS fits the bill. Whether you are an adept of Motorhead, or Danzig, or The Clash, you may want to sample this Guide. Seventeen tracks could be making the album a little fat, as some could have been left out, but as little as I listen to straightforward heavy rock these days I enjoyed this album quite a bit. Refreshing and professional are the best attributes I could ascribe to A Guide to Better Living.

Killing Songs :
Star Killers, Everythign Must Go, No Miracle, Slut, Venice, Dead Before Noon, Rub & Tug
Alex quoted 71 / 100
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