This year 1st December marked two occasions for self-described ‘drunk folk singer’ Jay McAllister, better known as Beans on Toast, as he not only celebrated his 34th birthday but also released of his sixth studio album. The Grand Scheme of Things, turns to the more wholesome topics of home cooking and an upcoming honeymoon, than Beans’ previous fare whilst also exploring heavy and controversial subjects such as wars, animal rights, and living a regular life. The combination won’t surprise many fans but may stand out as his best album to date.
The record opens with the suitably titled Folk Singer, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Despite progressing from the style of previous albums, Beans certainly doesn’t lose his penchant for witty lyrics and brutal honesty. Known for his drug use and political lyrics, Beans brings both to The War on War citing that “a war on drugs ain’t a war worth fighting” and should be replaced with “a war on stupid politicians”. These lyrics, like the majority of his work, wouldn’t sound especially out of place at a protest and are unlikely to leave any unsure as to his personal political stance.
For those less enthusiastic about recreational drug use The Grand Scheme of Things does see the folk singer move away from his previous output where drugs were far more prominent, likely a result of new experiences that came with Beans’ recent world tour that involved a plethora of festivals and North American sets, where Beans drew inspiration for new tracks Fuck You Nashville (notable for a distinct electrical sound, new for the folk singer), New Orleans Honeymoon and Stinging Nettles, a song written for children about the great outdoors. Topics like gentrification, chicken farming and world peace all get a mention. One of the keys to Grand Scheme of Things brilliance is that it is diverse in it’s breadth of content and very difficult to become bored with.
The Chicken Song takes a humourous slant disguising meaning with catchy melodies and memorable lines conveying McAllister’s anger with the Chicken farming industry. This strange, big-picture song is dealt with well tackling the message brightly with sarcastic jokes about a “giant, monster hybrid chicken that eat humans for tea”.
Although Beans’ opinions are frequently on point or funny, sometimes his lack of knowledge or sincerity is considerably evident. At no point is this better exemplified than his suggestion to tackle the Israel crisis by taking “the boom box out of boom town and put[ing] it in the Gaza Strip”. It might be unfair to suggest this is a sign of Beans’ ignorance on the topic but it fails to bring any real heart to the matter or provide any particular commentary, amusing or not.
Other topics tackled include the rise of UKIP, war and religious conflicts and children spending too much time in front of screens and monitors. Despite such a variety of distinct and divers messages, the wonderful chorus to Stinging Nettles stands out as the highlight of Grand Scheme of Things.
The delightful harmony and many instruments used work well in conjunction with clever lyrics and illustrates the best of the finally matured Beans On Toast.
Recorded at London’s Soup Studios, produced by Sam Beer with the help from Bobby Banjo and contributors Will Varley and Brooke Sharkey, The Grand Scheme of Things is an album that marks a change but not a complete makeover as Beans’ ability to tell a tale and tackle difficult subjects from an everyman perspective is not only brilliantly executed but a lot better than his former records.
The Grand Scheme of Things is out now.