Review: Beans On Toast – Rolling Up The Hill

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Politics, religion, terrorism, and love. Anything goes in the world created by Beans On Toast in Rolling Up The Hill.

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The seventh studio album from Beans On Toast, or Jay McAllister, is the softly anti-society ode that is Rolling Up The Hill. With themes of childhood, capitalism and religion woven against a backdrop of folksy guitar pickings and a jaunty rhythm, Beans on Toast gives us food for thought.

Rolling Up The Hill, in true Beans On Toast fashion, will be released on his birthday (1st December), as his six previous annual albums have been.

Album opener ‘The Mudhills Crew’ throws listeners into the jaunty, warming rhythm that is omnipresent on the album (despite the subject matter). It centres on the days before mobile phones, bringing a nostalgic opening and setting the backdrop for the reminiscent tone of much of Rolling Up The Hill. ‘Robin Hood Costume’ follows suit, with the first glimmer of politics on the album. McAllister’s raw voice growls that he is “tired of all of this bullshit” as he steals from the rich to give to the poor, laying bear the disparities in equity within society. There’s a nod towards American novelist and abolitionist, Henry David Thoreau’s, retreat to the forest in Walden, as McAllister tells us to stop paying our taxes and move to the woods. Perhaps not the most practical of actions, but maybe that’s the best way to make a stand.

Money is an element that takes much focus on the album, featuring in the lyrics of ‘The Industrial Estate’, too. Again, McAllister takes a nostalgic tone and looks back on his days as “fifteen years old on minimum wage, trying to make a change.” But he takes a less gloomy stance on this one, professing that if you do whatever you do with love, you will love what you do. It’d be easy to get bogged down in the angst of this album, but McAllister endearingly removes this through sprinkles of heartwarming quotes that lace through his lyrics.

Criticism turns to controversy on ‘God Is A Cartoonist’, with the brash speech that religion is all bullshit. McAllister refers to God as a terrorist, too. Read further into the lyrics, and it’s actually an ode to the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, in early 2015. “In case you don’t understand them, we’re going to draw you a picture as well” sings McAllister, as he confronts ideas surrounding race, religion, and the fact that white people who murder usually get off as clinically insane. The world of Beans on Toast is an honest one, approaching subjects that mainstream artists wouldn’t go near to. This isn’t to say that the entirety of Rolling Up The Hill is quite so political; tracks such as ‘I’m Home When You Hold Me’ are a bit closer to home with themes about watching Netflix and the closeness of a relationship. But the ones that are flag up the superficiality of much of the music that reigns our charts.

‘Driving Me Crazy’ and ‘The Art of Friendship’ reach out a hand to drive us away from the heavier subject matter of the album, with gentle guitar pickings, unhurried paces and softer vocals. ‘Numbers and Words’ steers us in a different direction altogether, stripping back any instrumentation for a spoken poem of sorts. “Let’s not describe love, let’s just enjoy it” speaks McAllister.

Rolling Up The Hill will take listeners on a journey through politics, religion, terrorism, love and childhood. That’s the beauty of it. The tracks are married by the similar tone that courses through them, creating a sense of continuity despite the varying subject matter. It’s an album that deserves to be listened to carefully, with each lyrical narrative given an equal amount of time. It’ll be worth it.

Rolling Up The Hill will be released on 1st December via Xtra Mile.

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Third year English student, Records Editor, list maker and lover of Kinder Buenos.

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