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Beans On Toast - 'The Toothpaste And The Tube' Album Review


1. Back Out On The Road

2. Work To Do

3. Hope & Glory

4. The Three Stooges

5. The Dragicorn

6 .The Golden Lion

7. Send Me A Bird

8. Sunny Sunny Scotland

9. AI

10. The Greenwash

11. Against The War

12. Swimming In The Sea

13. Who I'll Try To Be

The World is fucked. Capitalism has just about destroyed the planet; now it’s beginning to implode and civil society with it. History repeating itself, Fascism once again making its insidious and grim crawl across Europe, like an oil spill on a duckpond. We should all be up in arms, right? There should be fighting on the streets, we need to stand together against this evil, right? But the rent needs paying, the kids need to get to school on time, and I’ll lose my job if I get arrested- so I can’t very well go and superglue myself to an F1 car or something. And so here I am, increasingly frustrated at the state of the world, but just trying to be a decent human- doing a job and contributing my share to society, helping others when I can/when I remember, raising my children to be decent humans, and having a giggle with my friends from time to time. Not that I know Jay McAllister (or Beans on Toast, as you may know him) but if ‘The Toothpaste and the Tube’ is anything to go by, then I suspect he may be sympathetic to my viewpoint.

You see, Beans isn’t so much an optimist or a pessimist - his lyrics aren’t even that judgmental, he’s just telling stories and singing songs that hold a mirror to our society. Reminiscent of the music which came from the New York antifolk scene around the turn of the century - on ‘The Toothpaste and the Tube’, Jay fuses smart and witty lyricism with a generally paired down sound, fusing country folk with the blues and even a bit of funk. A travelling troubadour for the ages, it’s fitting that the album opens with a post-COVID love song to touring- namechecking venues, punters and travel anecdotes- ‘Back Out on The Road’ is a joyful celebration of those memories, tales and experiences that fit together to form the very patchwork of our personalities. There is a lot of very serious stuff to unpack on this record, and there are certainly some bleak moments of reflection ('Hope & Glory' could very well be Beans’ take on Ken Loach’s ‘I Daniel Blake’) but Jay’s gift is the ability to offer light in the very darkest of rooms. Along with the bleak, there are moments of sheer joy like ‘The Dragicorn’ (a celebration of the imagination of a 5-year-old girl) and ‘The Golden Lion’ (an ode to a near mythical pub in West Yorkshire’s hip and happening Calder Valley) and personal reflections on loss in latest single, ‘Send Me a Bird’.

I don’t think that there is another musician who makes me feel so comfortable in my own skin; I’m well aware that middle aged white man is hardly an under-represented demographic, but Beans speaks to me. The world is changing - in some ways for the better, and in some ways for the worse - and it’s a confusing/worrying/exciting time to be alive. Let’s not be crippled by worry about the things we cannot change - let’s focus on the ways we can make the world a better place. It won’t happen overnight, as the second track on the album clearly states - we have a lot of ‘Work to Do’.

Review - Jon Stokes


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