As the title may suggest, Beans On Toast's new album is a bit different to his previous seven releases. A Spanner in the Works was recorded on a laptop at his friend's house, showing a DIY ethic is still at the forefront of his creative process. The songs are layered with beats, loops, synths and samples, making a Beans album like you've never heard before, yet still keeping up with his trademark three-chord folk songs.
"2016" is a perfect opener, and the only song on A Spanner in the Works to feature a guitar, reminding us of his previous albums. An ode to the UK, "2016" reinforces what a mess this year has been - filled with celebrity deaths, the referendum, and terror threats. You can tell that Beans is hoping for a better 2017. From then on the album is jam-packed with synth, piano and loops. In complete contrast to "2016", penultimate track "Let The Fat Lady Sing" is primarily drum based, packed with operatic sounding vocals and constant percussion throughout the song. Personally this isn't my favourite song on the album, as it is quite repetitive, but it is still good.
Guests on the album including Matt Millership, Alex Mills and his own mum, Pauline, who takes the mic on "Fear Mongering Clap Trap", expressing her thoughts on climate change. "It's Only Natural" is calmer than a lot of the tracks on the album. The key theme is about changing the world. "I Can Be That Tree" is the first song on the album which shows his new style: a story of him and his wife planting a tree in a park to celebrate their first anniversary, developing a digital folk story. "We Made It To The Waterfall" opens with beats which remind me of "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves. Vocalist Alex Mills adds in doo-wops which are similar to that of a '60s girl group. Elsewhere, "Money For War" features male harmonies in the background, evoking a similar era.
Beans On Toast has definitely excelled on this album, and moving away from three-chord folk songs has brought out a new side of him, expressing his talent on different instruments while still showcasing his unique style of writing. The making of A Spanner in the Works was spent exploring the different sounds you could make on a computer, which he described as "absolutely endless," adding that they "had a lot of fun exploring that world".
As Beans On Toast prepares to set sail on his annual UK tour, you're probably wondering how the new set up will affect the show. Thankfully, the new sound won't affect the stripped-back live show we all love. The set will be performed with the usual guitar, banjo and harmonica in the way they were written. Beans doesn't try to cover anything up and says everything as it is, making his songs feel like a conversation with friends. His colloquial style rings out loud in this album, making it a very comforting listen.Release: 1st December 2016, Xtra Mile Recordings