Published Mar 03, 2015On The Grand Scheme of Things, British folk-punk Jay McAllister both transcends and falls prey to his genre's biggest clichés. His sixth LP, which he releases under his alter ego Beans On Toast, kicks off with "Folk Singer." If the tune's title seems on the nose, wait until you hear the lyrics, which feature trite lines like: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice" and "You're left to roam and travel 'round / Making up songs about the stories you've found." It ends with a box-ticking shout out to Pete Seeger, to boot.
The midway track "Stinging Needles" is even more sentimental and, worse yet, preachy, as Beans sings about watching beauty with your eyes instead of "through the screen of a telephone." But McAllister's clunky lyricism is offset by his lilting banjo strumming, and once his cheesy first verse is over, listeners will be undeniably charmed by his breezy harmonizing with backup Gaelic vocalist Brooke Sharkey on the chorus. Meanwhile, "The War on War" features a snooze-inducing kumbaya theme about smoking spliffs instead of bearing arms. The song is salvaged by Beans' harmonica playing, which comes in short, hoarse blasts instead of the genre's all too typical soaring solos, along with cheeky lines about quitting MDMA. Hearing a reference to today's notorious "dubstep drug" rectifies all the rest of those milquetoast couplets.
Similar lyrical plot twists ensue on "The Chicken Song," which once again has a holier than thou start, before Beans gives us a few hilarious couplets about the potential vengeance of maligned poultry. And his slyness comes to full bear on the more than aptly titled "Fuck You Nashville," on which he lambasts the twang hinterland as a "Disneyland of country music." Sure, Beans' sentimental cynicism can be mushy in large portions, but there are just enough bittersweet morsels on this LP to whet the appetites of folk punk devotees. (Xtra Mile)