McCartney guitarist Rusty Anderson showcases solo skills on debut

Mike McKenna

Rusty Anderson had better be thankful for guest appearances and his connections in the music biz, because without them, his debut solo album “Undressing Underwater” might have stayed permanently submerged.

Anderson, lead guitarist for Paul McCartney’s band and former leader of the 90’s alt-punk band Ednaswap, uses the floor space on this album to showcase his varied talents and guitar chops. Though he may have veteran guitar skills, Anderson falls short in the lyrics department, leaving his semi-autobiographical album lacking any genuinely memorable moments.

The novelty appeal of McCartney playing bass and backing vocals on the album’s decidedly “Wings-esque” opener, “Hurt Myself,” might be enough to draw the mixed target audience of 50-year-old Beatles enthusiasts and teenage female pop-rock junkies who would be into Anderson’s music. For the rest of us, the record offers very few polished musical gems to groove on.

Though Anderson again rides the coat tails of another legend, former Police drummer Stewart Copeland, on “Catbox Beach,” this hybrid reggae surf-rock instrumental offers great low-neck guitar and Copeland’s trademark “beach bum” beats. If more of the album focused on musical execution and less on churning out mock-emo lyrics, Anderson would have a nice musical package to offer his listeners.

Anderson cranks it up on heavier tracks like “Ol’ Sparky,” “Ishmael,” and the sarcastic eye-roll worthy “Sentimental Chaos.” However, some may actually be impressed and have fun while listening to the groove-heavy riffs and humorous lyrics on the wild and slightly computerized “Devil’s Spaceship.” Anderson sings, “I’m on the devil’s spaceship / I got some DNA / Seems like a shame to waste it / Going south / I see no future down my throat / Grab my balls and hit the note that’s never there,” then screams in agony.

Once you have finished digging on the few grungy guitar hooks and solos that make the album worth spinning, you are left with a lackluster collection of pseudo-sentimental pieces with no linear connection, given the personal narrative nature of the album.

“Electric Trains” combines what few qualities make this album store-worthy. The pop-driven bass hook and drum machine combos keep the listener in tune while Anderson delivers an ode to his late older brother. This track makes up for other cheap-shot “ballad” types like “Damaged Goods” and the simply contrived “Coming Down To Earth.”

Programming is another of Anderson’s skills which surpasses those of his singing and song-writing. The guitarist wore many hats on the production of his album: playing guitars, bass, piano, steel pedals and effects while co-producing with Parthenon Huxley.

All in all a worthy debut effort from an artist who has had the honor of playing beside McCartney on his last few studio albums and world tours, Anderson could have done a bit more to pack a lyrical punch on “Undressing Underwater,” which will leave some listeners adrift in a sea of frustration.

Give these tracks a seccond listen: “Devil’s Spaceship” and “Catbox Beach.”

Our rating: 2.5 stars (out of five)