by Ben Adsett
There was a great level of excitement reading about the release of Spanner in the Works. The latest album from Beans on Toast sees the Essex troubadour take on the challenge to create an album that embraces a sample heavy self-production style. An interesting approach, particularly from a man who has always embraced the simplicity of a DIY folk punk sound. But for a guy whose previous releases have referenced an incredibly broad musical taste it was unlikely to be too much of a challenging shift.
As the record begins you notice a problem, not with the song – ‘2016’ is a simple, narrative rich and beautiful in its description of a pretty awful year so far – the problem is in the subtle three chord folk song that is leading Beans into this uncharted new territory. One can only assume that the importance of this song overshadowed the change in direction. However, it’s combination that creates an absolutely wonderful contrast as the record develops.
From here it doesn’t take long at all for the album to take shape. Within seconds of the second track ‘I Can Be That Tree’ it’s clear that synth and electronic elements will be taking control. This track includes some incredibly heart felt lyrics and I am sure it will appear on valentines mixtapes for all the soppy punks in February. This tale of planting a tree to celebrate a first wedding anniversary is painfully romantic but in such an individual style, much like the man himself.
As the album progresses the basic motivations behind it become clear; anger and love. He is angry at the current political climate, angry about the growing right wing and angry about how these things are affecting his life and his livelihood. On the flipside, there are dedications to his wife and family, with a song about his nan (‘Nanny Mac’) that is so heartfelt you’ll struggle not to feel a similar pride for the lady in question. The range of emotions tackled within these songs has definitely created a connection between writer and listener; Beans takes complete control of the listeners emotions for the duration of this record.
Musically, the album takes a lot of detours around the world of music. There’s a mix of Caribbean sounds, gypsy jazz, folk, dance music and plenty of pop hooks. It’s a record which embraces the festival feeling that featured often in a lot of his previous works, and it works wonderfully.
While it may be a departure from the scrappy political folk he’s known and loved for, it remains very much an album of his writing. An adventurous outing, both lyrically and musically, Spanner in the Works is a beautiful reflection of the the man behind the music.
Spanner in the Works is out December 1st via Xtra Mile Recordings.