Album review: Rusty Anderson – Undressing Underwater

Having played guitar for several of the big-hitters in the music world including Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney, Rusty Anderson turned his attention to his own solo career, producing the amazingly rocked up guitar-fest that is Undressing Underwater.

Recorded during breaks in touring at several studios in California, Rusty spoke about the album saying: “the songs are mostly about facing one’s demons and attempting to bottle them.” The odd album name occurred to the rocker as he was perusing an early 60’s boyscout handbook which listed several things that could be done underwater, undressing being on of them!

Throughout Undressing Underwater you can hear Rusty experimenting with sounds and noises, striving to get something new and different and be as progressive with his music as he can be. His guitar playing is versatile and exciting, finding a time to shine through on most tracks.

Here are my track-by-track thoughts on Undressing Underwater:

Hurt Myself – The album crashes open with the album’s lead single Hurt Myself. A 60’s inspired rocker, the song even features Rusty’s ‘boss’ Sir Paul McCartney on bass, electric guitar and backing vocals. An anguished guitar solo gives way to an unexpected horn solo that builds the song back up for one final rapturous rendition of the chorus.

Devil’s Spaceship – Fast, dirty and gritty, Devil’s Spaceship flies along driven by heavily distorted guitars and screaming vocals and solos. Relenting only enough to allow the listener to grab a quick breath of air before plowing on, Devil’s Spaceship is a nicely heavy second song.

Electric Trains – Opening with lolloping drums, Electric Trains is much more restrained than the opening two tracks of the album. With half of the verses consisting only of a relatively clean guitar and vocals, the song is both poignant and personal to Rusty, drawing to an emotional musical close with a final wistful rendition of the melody.

Damaged Goods – A highlight of Undressing Underwater, Damaged Goods is the most subtle song on the album. Opening with a mysterious reverbed vibraphone, aside from the simple guitar solo and the song seems to feature very little guitar work on the track. Muted chords are buried in the sparse mix and only hints of slide guitar coming through. Instead the song relies on it’s strong melody and harmonies.

Coming Down To Earth – Less subtle than Damaged Goods (yet still a light song compared to others on the album), Coming Down To Earth features some interesting chord changes and nice playful vocal twists that crescendo on a screaming bridge before the song gradually eases off towards its logical conclusion.

Ol’ Sparky – Stepping the album back up, Ol’ Sparky is good mid-tempo rocker that has some great thrashed guitar work and a burningly catchy riff. Lyrically the song is interesting with Rusty spitting out some fun (albeit quite odd) lines, culminating with the a solid piece of advice: “Kiss your own ass if nobody else will!”

Catbox Beach – One of the most fun and exciting tracks on the album, Catbox Beach is a lesson in cali-surf-rock. Entirely instrumental (except for some “ooh” and “aah” backing vocals), the song barrels along relenting during a off-beat reggae mid section before the main melody surfs right on back in to round the song off. A definite highlight.

Ishmael – A prominently drum driven song, something about if gives it an off kilter, uneasy kind of feel. There are some great guitar effects going on in Ishmael and a sweet high harmony accompanies the lead vocal throughout the song. Definitely a track you’ll want to listen to again…if just to make sure you comprehended the song properly if nothing else!

Sentimental Chaos – Soaked in a retro sounding chorus-y effect, Sentimental Chaos‘s riff has a great playablility factor. switching between the  riff and a heavier section several times throughout the song, it culminates on a nicely balanced amalgamation of the two sections.

Everybody Deserves An A In This Country – Opening with a simple piano lick a stomping drum and guitar riff quickly march in to lead the song along. There are some great call-and-response vocal/backing vocal sections and brilliant harmonies on display as Rusty sings the lighthearted, fun lyrics. The choruses build and rock along (with some exquisite tambourine work) and are suddenly stripped back to silence in order to punctuate the song. The sng is a good overall “thank you” song from Rusty to everyone that worked on and bought the album.

As I think I have made clear, and as any first time listener will soon find out, Rusty is a massively proficient guitarist, and his undeniable talent on his instrument is dazzling throughout the album. There are flashy solo’s aplenty, however he is not afraid of stripping a song back to its bare roots if needs be. It is heavy, it is light, fun, it is serious, it is meaningful, it is meaningless…it has something for everyone.

The only minor criticism I would make is that all of the songs are primarily electric guitar and drum driven. It is a pity there aren’t more acoustic guitar or even piano based songs, however to Rusty’s credit the songs are diverse enough to not draw attention to that fact or have a detrimental effect on Undressing Underwater as a whole.

One interesting side note: Undressing Underwater also has a more abstract and altogether stranger alternate cover, however the contents of the album remains the same, albeit in a slightly altered order:

Hurt Myself
Coming Down To Earth
Damaged Goods
Electric Trains
Sentimental Chaos
Ol’ Sparky
Ishmeal
Devil’s Spaceship
Catbox Beach
Everybody Deserves An A In This Country

As well as being able to buy Undressing Underwater from the usual sites including Amazon and iTunes, you can also purchase it over on Rusty Anderson’s official website. You can keep up to date with Rusty by following his official twitter account or ‘liking’ his official Facebook page.

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