Review: Beans On Toast – A Bird In The Hand

A lot has changed over the past year, but in a way it has all stayed the same. Nowhere is that clearer than on Beans On Toast’s latest record – arguably his best yet.

Beans now has a daughter, and with her a newfound perspective on things. He has also found time to become an author and embark on the accompanying ‘Sitting On A Chair’ nine-year anniversary tour. But he still has an album out on December 1 (for the 10th straight year) and still finds time to give his take on the burning issues of the day.

In a full-circle kind of way, Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett returns to produce the album, as he did for Beans’ 50-track debut Standing On A Chair. As expected, ti was a rather informal arrangement and recorded by the pair in gaps and evenings between Mumford’s latest record at Church Studios.

It would be a pretty simple task to map out the social, political and economic changes of the past decade solely using Beans On Toast songs.

Through death, war and financial crisis you almost take it for granted that Beans will spin any scenario into an initmitable affecting three-minute tune and for good measure will chuck in another song drawn from some deeply personal experiences.

Across each of his ten albums, Beans has never been afraid to mix in a personal track with the political. Relationships with friends, girlfriends, alcohol and drugs have been charted in a way that feels at once deeply personal and unique but entirely relatable.

But perhaps for the first time, the core of the album seems to be drawn almost entirely from Beans’ personal experiences over the past 12 months. Namely, the birth of his daughter.

As you’d expect, he still finds time to let rip at modern (in)conveniences with the on-point ‘Alexa’, which managed to set off my friend’s own device when we first listened to it.

Once again, our attitude to recycling is given a going over with ‘Bamboo Toothbrush’ while ‘Please Give Generously’ is a heartfelt plea on homelessness that, almost in resignation, entirely avoids the politics of the matter.

But these tracks feel fundamentally different to Beans’ protest tracks of old, and no longer from the backbone of his releases. The spit and fire of ‘Angry Birds’, the bravado of ‘Things’ has been left in the past. 2017’s Cushty was a definite push in this direction – even the experimental Spanner In The Works from the year before had some signs – and now Bird In The Hand feels the definitive opening of a new chapter.

Beans has never been one for talking in metaphor or analogy, so ‘Magic’ is a typically frank account of that birth, and ‘Another Year’ is a touching muse on bridging the generations of young and old.

After the overriding angst writ large across a lot of his recent music, ‘Watching The World Go By’ feels finally like something close to Beans accepting happiness within himself.

Ultimately, A Bird In The Hand is still, unmistakably, a Beans On Toast record, but somehow still entirely unlike anything he’s done before; revitalised, refreshed and full of newfound positivity and perspective. Sometimes that’s all we need.

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