Beans On Toast
A Spanner in the Works
[Xtra Mile Recordings]
It is without doubt that 2016 has been one of those years that won’t be forgotten for a long time. With momentous showbiz deaths, a US election like no other and the biggest shake up of all, The Great British Bake Off announcing its move to Channel 4, 2016 has dealt all its wild cards at once but with no spectacular jackpot at the end. That was until DIY folk singer Beans On Toast released his latest offering, with a fitting title, A Spanner in the Works.
For the eighth consecutive year, Essex born singer songwriter Jay McAllister has stuck with tradition and released this album on 1st December, notably his birthday. With seven albums already to his name, his latest record sees him embracing technology to create an album that was recorded at his friend’s house on solely his laptop. With him fully embracing his DIY culture, A Spanner in the Works offers a mixture of genres and styles from heartfelt, personal songs to tracks with political subjects that only an artist like Beans is quite brave enough to sing about.
Opening track 2016, the only song to feature a guitar on the album, documents the tumultuous past months with references to Brexit, the refugee crisis and the rise in terrorism. As Beans mourns the deaths of Prince, Mohammed Ali, David Bowie and Victoria Wood to name just a few, this reflective song leaves no stone unturned and ultimately sums up what a depressing year it has been.
The synths make their first appearance for I Can Be That Tree, a song about Beans and his wife planting a tree in a public park. “The first year’s anniversary is paper and so we thought that we would plant a tree,” he sings over the minimalist repetitive synth beats. This track shows a loving and tender side and moves away from Beans’ regular political ranting.
The politics doesn’t stay away for long as The Drum Kit sees Beans discussing the increasing closure of live music venues, many of which have helped him to forge his career to date. The lyrics, “It don’t matter how many people think your club night’s great,” are poignant with the recent closing, and now reopening, of popular London venue Fabric.
Taking a step away from the synths, the piano based anthem for stoners, It’s Only Natural, celebrates the benefits of weed, whilst Down the Pub celebrates getting drunk in the local, mixing trumpet riffs and a honky-tonk piano accompaniment.
Fear Mongering Clap Trap, a song about the threat of climate change, sees a guest appearance from none other than Beans’ own mum Pauline, who channels an inner Churchill to deliver her speech. The words, “Let’s not be so pessimistic / I hope that we’re still in with a chance,” ring loud over the repetitive synthesised drum beat.
Beans On Toast has shown yet again that he is able to make a thought provoking album that entwines political problems, everyday relatable issues and personal stories. Whilst Beans’ raspy voice doesn’t always hit quite the right notes, this only adds to the DIY approach that he’s taken with this album. If A Spanner in the Works is nothing else, it’s an album full of beans.