If you don’t know the drill yet: every year on his birthday, Mr Beans on Toast of Essex puts out a new album. You can’t doubt his commitment to it – A Bird in the Hand marks the 10th edition of this noble enterprise, followed by the customary tour around the country (and beyond).
Jay McAllister is a regular at Glastonbury also, with a long run of being the opening act under his belt. Change obviously gives the man the fear. Actually, though, this year is a little bit different for him, being the first which he has at least partially spent as a father. Whether or not he intends to make his partner pop out a sprog for the next 10 years is not clear.
What is more clear is that this provides Beans on Toast with a rich seam of tenderness to mine for material and… and… we’re not crying, it’s just something in our eye, okay!? His musical formula remains as simple as the humble repast for which he is named. He (for the most part) picks and strums away at some fairly generic chord sequences, and then tells you quite frankly without any sort of subterfuge about what he thinks about something.
This is not the place to come for musical innovation – though that’s really never been the point. It’s exactly this simplicity that allows songs like “Magic” (about his daughter being born) and “Miss You Like Crazy” (which plays with your expectations by being about a baby rather than a fancy lady) so poignant.
“Alexa”, which addresses the eponymous Amazon spying device is a nicely droll punk-lite commentary on how we just won’t give up convenience whatever the cost; and “Homerton Hospital” is a very honest celebration of the multicultural NHS that will give anyone who’s not a heartless cretin a nice warm glow.
“Please Give Generously” seems to be built upon a sample lifted from a melted tape version of “Girlfriend in a Coma”, but can you really take issue with a track that tells you to give money to the homeless? Similarly “1980s Sagittarius” is a sweet tribute to a friend that makes you wish you were so brilliant that someone would write a song about you – even if it is one you’d never be able to pick out of a lineup.
The nursery funk of “Bamboo Toothbrush” may push non-beanspeople to the brink of impatience, and the world probably doesn’t need another song about “Watching the World Go By”. Of course, songs like these aren’t really supposed to be listened to on record. Go see him live instead if this sounds like your kind of thing – he’s off on December 19th and will be on the road until April.
Release: 1st December 2018, Beans on Toast Music