The Grand Scheme of Things, Beans on Toast’s seventh studio signals a shift away from some of his more traditional songs, classics like MDMAzing, into a more mellow, contemplative tone. The themes are not the only things to have shifted in this new release, with Beans trying out far more adventurous, meatier sounding melodies and instrumental backings. All of this without losing his raw honesty and wit.
The album opens with suitably named Folk Singer, which sets the wonderfully personal tone for the album. One of Beans on Toast’s many talents is his ability to engage his audience – both live and from behind a studio mic – making each individual feel like it is just them listening to him play. This track highlights this beautifully, opening with a baleful harmonica before Beans’ familiar chords take over, as he opens with “I came for a one handed applause, but I stayed because on stage I feel at home” and that is where you see him; you feel like you’re looking up from the pit at the man himself playing and singing. I feel I have to mention the wonderful composition of the album here which makes it feel like a live show or even a conversation with the man himself: opening with honesty in Folk Singer and closing the album with a personal appeal to all live our lives and get along, in NYE, makes it very satisfying to listen to in order.
Start with what you know is definitely true of The Grand Scheme of Things and very few people would complain about the wonderful and familiar sound of the first track of the album. However, never predictable, Beans on Toast takes an entirely different musical style for the next song and, indeed, for the rest of the album.
Clearly a man of very defined principles, Beans explores glorification of war and religious conflict, suggesting that we should “take the boom box out of Boom Town and put it the Gaza Strip” before admitting that “that’s a f*cking, stupid, ignorant idea”. The way in which he achieves a serious point through honest, witty language is something truly superb and help to create his fantastic style and something that comes out in The Grand Schemes of Things perhaps even more than his previous works. In terms of his familiar political, current affairs songs, Beans also explores factory farming of chickens, the rise of UKIP, huge corporations taking over and, in possibly my favourite track of the album, what children are missing out on by using screens. Said track, “Stinging Nettles”, illustrates a beautiful musical evolution for Beans on Toast, with more layers of instruments than just his guitar and some wonderful harmonies during the chorus. Bean’s honesty again shines through and it genuinely feels like the man himself is sitting in your living room, singing his heart out telling you to “tell the dandelion it can tell the time, roll your trousers up, head to the river side…”
However, the most special part of Beans on Toast’s latest album comes in the form of his personal songs. These have featured in his previous works, with Lizzy Bee – of whom we only hear wonderful things – a recurring theme, yet in The Grand Scheme of Things, there are more of these personal songs and they are more emotional; truly passionate. From Lizzy’s Cooking, a charming love song, to Flying Clothes Line, Beans really does sing from the heart. NOLA Honeymoon, however, blows the other beautiful tracks out of the water. The song’s music is wonderful, “oomphy” and again illustrates the evolution of Beans on Toast’s style, but the words are magical. Essentially a proposal – presumably to his “darling Lizzy Bee” – the song crescendos in emotion to “I want to bring you back here as my wife”, while maintaining the same light tune the song started with. I genuinely would, without a moment’s hesitation, say yes to Beans if he sang to it to me; it is a musical treasure.
I realise that I have homed in on small elements of the album – given paragraphs to single tracks and failing to mentioned others – but that is how the album works. I have, in preparing this review, listened to it at least 10 times and each time I end with a different favourite song, so it was inevitable that some parts would get more attention than others, it doesn’t mean the others aren’t equally superb. However many times you listen to the Grand Scheme of Things, it will always feel fresh, personal and, frankly, wonderful. What this superb collection of raw, musical honesty proves, though, is that underneath his drugs, anti-establishment armour, Beans on Toast is a classic romantic and, as we already knew, a cracking musician.
The Grand Scheme of Things is released tomorrow 1st December, Beans on Toast’s birthday, and is available through Amazon, iTunes and other outlets. It is also available on vinyl exclusively through Urban Outfitters.