It might be cruel to suggest that Beans On Toast only has a record deal because he is mates with Frank Turner, but there is certainly weight to the accusation. Beans, or Jay to his friends, has released a new album on his birthday for the past six years and 'The Grand Scheme of Things' sees Essex's premiere squatter/folk hero operating at business as usual.
Opening with 'Folk Singer', Jay starts things off in fine form with a shaky bit of harmonica and witty, acerbic lyrics about, well, being a folk singer. There's a little bit of banjo and a whole lot of moaning about not getting paid, but it is all in good humour with tongue firmly in cheek. It doesn't set the world alight and it's nothing really special, but it's classic Beans On Toast. At least you know where you stand with it.
Next up you get 'The War On War', which seems to be urging the world to put down the guns and pick up the spliffs. Musically, it is a barnstorming hootenanny and probably one of the best tracks on offer here. Elsewhere, Jay rallies against commercialisation in 'F**k You, Nashville' and against killing chickens in 'The Chicken Song'. The lyrics in these songs are thoughtful, interesting and, in places, hilarious.
However, you can't help but feel Beans On Toast has painted himself into a corner by sticking so rigidly to a folk music formula. The album is completely indistinguishable from his past work and later in the album, the songs become samey and boring. 'Flying Clothes Line', 'NYE' and 'A Whole Lot of Loving'; are more or less standard, run of the mill, workmanlike Beans On Toast. Even worse, when he tries to branch out, as on the almost six minute long 'All I See Is Wagamamas' he fails to sustain interest.
There is, as ever, plenty to like about Beans On Toast on 'The Grand Scheme of Things'. At its best, the album is cheeky, witty and a bit of folk fun. On the other end of the scale though, at its worst it seems like Jay is complacent and happy to keep plugging the same old guff year in, year out.
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