Before you put on Jay McAllister’s eighth LP — and you absolutely should — it’s worth bearing in mind he recorded it just before the American Presidential election. Yep. The Benson and Hedges-throated croaker from Braintree habitually releases a record on his December 1st birthday. As such, what with mixing, mastering and all that faff, the album missed the horrors of polling day, and so today plays like a carefree, poetic time capsule from a long-lamented utopia.
On opening track ‘2016’, Beans skilfully bayonets petty Fisher Price villains such as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Those sidemen of the apocalypse, we now snigger. In equal measure he salutes icons who passed away last year: Lemmy, Bowie, Prince (even Victoria Wood — it makes perfect sense that he was a fan, right?) Lyrics touching on social media bubbles also show how Beans On Toast is bang on the money in terms of (then) topicality, though (so far) he stops just short of namechecking the gathering tangerine-coloured storm across the pond. It feels like a mercy.
Clash has always felt Beans On Toast is something of a latter day Johnny Cash, at least in terms of the great man’s comic output. Think ‘A Boy Named Sue’, or ‘One Piece At A Time’. Into that sort of thing? You’ll love this.
There’s politics aplenty. ‘Fear Mongering Claptrap’ forces us to confront our ennui over climate change, ‘It’s Only Natural’ rails against the ongoing criminality of weed (expertly pitched at his natural festival-going constituency) while ‘Afternoons In The Sunshine’ takes the mature view we should all stop beating each other up over ideology (“I wanna eat meat / I wanna fly / I don’t wanna feel guilty just for being alive.”)
Longterm followers will adore barnstormers such as ‘Down The Pub’ (“all the best ideas I had / I had when I was drunk”) and ‘The Drum Kit With Gap’, registering his disgust at the latter-day massacre of so many beloved London venues. There’s a couple of weepies too: one in particular about his new wife and another, genuinely affecting, ballad penned for a former fan who passed away doing volunteer work. And while, with the exception of the opener, Beans eschews his trademark guitar-only arrangements in favour of synth, brass, piano and drums, I honestly didn’t much notice on first listen. The rhythms and feel are no different, and if like me you’re there for the poetry you’ll miss nothing.
With hindsight, Beans On Toast should have wrapped up the record on track eleven, ‘Money For War’. A dazzling tour de force, it allies his uncanny knack for metre, wit, and brevity with a divine gospel backing. Alas, two tracks later we instead waltz to a close on ‘Fast Train’, and in airily pontificating about London house prices Beans breaks the spell, musing he’d consider moving “…to New Orleans / but Trump might actually win.”
Words: Andy Hill
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