He plays an acoustic guitar, hates the government and is a mate of Frank Turner. It isn’t actually possible for me not to like him.
Yes, despite sounding like a band, Beans On Toast is actually just one bloke called Jay with an acoustic guitar who sounds like he’s got laryngitis. Having been wandering in the music wilderness for around 3 years, Beans has finally got himself a deal and released his first album. Standing On A Chair is a massive double album filled with 50 tracks about sex, drugs, politics and peaches (yes, peaches). Not only is it a great deal, but a bloody good set of folk tunes too.
Having seen him live during Turner’s ‘Poetry Of The Deed Tour’, I didn’t really know what to make of him. His voice really is knackered, but his music and lyrics are really good. Granted every song is played with the same three chords so it’s no musical masterclass, but for some reason I can’t stop listening to him. You’d think someone who sounds like they’ve eaten a bag of gravel would get annoying after 50 tracks, but as soon as the album finished I started it back at track one all over again.
Beans is the everyman, a normal guy that’s doing what he wants to do and saying what he likes. This isn’t some pretentious way of getting attention, he’s not trying to be a working class hero or anything, he just wants to sing some songs and have a bit of a laugh. This is reflected in his music. Tracks like The Price Of Rice, Don’t Believe The Bullshit and I Ain’t That Old Sunshine are tracks that reflect what I think the majority are thinking.
Standing On A Chair isn’t just an album filled with stories of woe from the UK, there’s something here that people the world over can relate to. A lot of the tracks look back on the singer’s life, reciting tales of love, loss and sticky situations. There’s a lot of tracks here about the future and technology, not a typical folk music subject matter but they’re some of the best. I can particularly relate to “I’ve never scored a proper goal, but I’m really good at Pro Evo. I can’t ollie up a curb, unless I’m playing Tony Hawk. Hell, I can’t even drive a car, but I’ll kick your arse at Mario Kart”. A perfect rendition of the life of the average man if you ask me.
There’s a lot of political stuff on here too. I wouldn’t say BOT was a political singer/songwriter but there’s definitely some great political commentary here, even if it is a little tongue in cheek. Some great examples of this are I Shot Tupac Shakur And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt and, a favourite of mine, An Afternoon With Henry Rollins. However, the most major over arching topic on the album is nostalgia. A lot of the tracks show how good a storyteller the singer is. Something that particularly sticks out is The Pub In Holloway. A track about Holloway’s Nambucca pub that was burnt down about this time last year. Here Beans sings about all the people affected by the blaze, what they’ve lost and how they’ve all got “memories they can’t remember”. A favorite track of mine and a particularly poignant one if you ask me. The familiar Frank Turner tones can be heard here too, at least I think it’s him providing backing vocals.
Speaking of backing vocals, that’s the biggest problem with the album. They can occasionally overpower Beans’ vocals which can take away from the track. Thankfully, not all of the songs have backing vocals so most of the tracks sound fine. Whether this was an attempt to cover the singer’s gravelly tones, I don’t know. I just know it doesn’t really work.
A 50 track album seems pretty unheard of and the fact that it’s really good took me by surprise. It’s certainly not for everyone, I doubt a lot of people will get past his ‘bad’ voice. However, if you want to hear the, sometimes sordid, stories of a bloke from North London, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Buy a signed copy of Standing On A Chair at the Xtra Mile Recordings store