ARTIST: BEANS ON TOAST
ALBUM: ROLLING UP THE HILL
LABEL: XTRA MILE RECORDINGS
RELEASE DATE: 1 DECEMBER 2015
A fair bit’s changed on the new record from Beans On Toast: a little bit less political, a little bit more personal, a lot more banjo. Recorded in Kansas with country duo Truckstop Honeymoon, the album feels more like a series of snapshots from the singer’s life than anything he’s released before.
Rolling Up The Hill finds Beans approaching the age of 35 and dealing with the idea of becoming middle-aged. The album is bookended by ‘The Mudhill Crew’ and ‘Middleageman’: the first reminiscent for his teenage years, the second reflecting on how things have changed since then. Few artists can tell a story perfectly in every track the way Beans can with his level of honesty and personality, from love songs like ‘I’m Home When You Hold Me’, to the tackling of the Charlie Hebdo attacks on ‘God Is a Cartoonist’.
Musically, the record is an American take on the classic British Beans On Toast recipe. Although still rooted in the acoustic guitar and vocals, the percussion, banjos and harmonica give Beans’ sound a whole new spin. Album highlight ‘Robin Hood Costume’ and ‘Afrikaburn’ are driven by loose, pulsating bass grooves that are more dance-worthy than anything else in his catalogue. The weakest moments come in the twee ukelele-pop of ‘Driving Me Crazy’ and the relatively dry ‘The Industrial Estate’, but besides these it’s a remarkably consistent affair, making one of the strongest, most uplifting and enjoyable folk-pop records of the year.
Dropping much of the politics for a more personal touch is a gamble for someone like Beans On Toast, and the album doesn’t feel as powerful or as relevant as some of his former works. But as he explains in ‘The Great American Novel’: he didn’t come here to win, he just came for a drink.
JOE GILBERTSON @PAST0DON