Beans On ToastBeans On Toast
Album: Rolling Up The Hill
Label: Xtra Mile
Tracks: 12

December traditionally means the start of the festive season but for the few years or so it's also meant the arrival of another set of songs from Essex songsmith Beans On Toast. A troubadour in the truest sense, this is the 7th consecutive album to appear on December 1st (Beans' birthday) and long time listeners will be pleased to know that it's every bit as good as the preceding 6 records.

As with previous releases the record is chock full of lyrical observations on all manner of subjects - all of which are met head on with subtlety and vague ambiguity not big on the list of requirements for main-man Jay McAllister. This time round terrorism, bands who play to backing tracks and working for the man all get the full Beans treatment and for the main they hit the spot with an ability to illicit laughter and provoke thought in the same song.

Opening track 'The Mudhills Crew' is a paean to teenage years spent whiling away the hours with his friends in Braintree. It's beautifully crafted and I defy anyone in their mid-30's not to get a little misty eyed for their own youth upon listening to it. This is in itself is probably the strongest weapon in McAllisters armoury; the ability to be convey love, compassion and thankfulness on record. See also 'The Art of Friendship' which he wrote in exchange for a piece of art that a friend created for the Beans On Toast marital home.

Where McAllister has an uncanny ability to be heartfelt and sensitive he's not short of ability when it comes to scathing observations on current affairs and modern life. His gravel-flecked vocals are leant brilliantly to a few digs such as 'God Is A Cartoonist' (no explanation needed) and 'Driving Me Crazy (again self-explanatory). On the flipside though, 'The Industrial Estate' is well intentioned but ultimately misguided slight on anyone who has an office job.

For anyone expecting a life changing experience from a Beans On Toast record then you might wonder what all the fuss is about but if you like your Billy Bragg laced with wit and a drop of cynicism then you'll be up the front singing along in no time. 'Running Up The Hill' is another great slab of Beans and reason enough to stick December 1st 2016 in the diary.

Rob Fearnley

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