A collection of political and personal songs with the latter leaving their mark.
As his birthday approaches, the countdown to the latest Beans On Toast album begins. This year’s offering ‘The Toothpaste And The Tube’ comes at the end of his 42nd and sees BoT focussed on both the personal and the political, with a slice of humour to soften some of the messages. Recorded over a period of a week with Ferris & Sylvester along with support from Ross Gordon (drums, organ), ‘The Toothpaste And The Tube” comprises thirteen songs over 52 minutes.
The album’s opening track, ‘Back Out On The Road’, is a celebration of touring – seeing new and familiar places, catching up with old friends and engaging with people at the shows and on the road. ‘Work To Do’ is the first of the overtly political tracks and features BoT laying out a long list of problems faced by the world’s population which won’t be going away on their own (hence the album’s title). Acknowledging how overwhelming they can seem, he reminds the listener that we are the only ones who can do something about it.
‘Hope and Glory’ paints its political message on a more personal canvas, recounting its tale of a single mother struggling to survive in England 2023 asking “how much does it cost to live a good life?” The angrier fourth song ‘The Three Stooges’ loses some of its impact by veering into the language of the conspiracy ‘theorists’.
He switches firmly to the personal with ‘The Dragicorn’ which is a testament to the in-depth expertise and imperious certainty of his five-year-old daughter “if you want to hang out with this five-year-old, you’d better believe in mythical creatures”. ‘The Golden Lion’ opens with the story of a UFO obsessed former policeman and introduces a cast of characters whose paths cross at the Golden Lion in Todmorden the praises of which BoT sings out. It will host his album launch.
The theme of the next track is bereavement as he asks the departed loved one to “send me a bird”. He sings of his thoughts and extensive memories of the late subject. It’s the most affecting song on the record. Another mythical creature ‘Sunny Sunny Scotland’ is the destination for the Essex branch of clan McAlister as he hymns the land of his forefathers, before launching into ‘AI’ – reviewed on here a few months ago. It’s a darkly humorous take on the subject of artificial intelligence with a singalong chorus harking back to Old MacDonald rather than forward to a techbound future.
‘The Greenwash’ sees us firmly back in political territory -albeit with a pastiche early hip-hop tune reminding the listener of fellow Essex boy, Ian Dury– focusing on the global hypocrisy over nominally environmentally positive actions. The next track ‘Against The War’ opens with a jaunty whistle but we get BoT calmly but angrily citing examples of bad actors and suffering. It was another pre-release single.
‘Swimming In The Sea’ is an older song which first appeared in 2022. It starts with a nice description of the setting before BoT gest into the water. The song celebrates the simplicity and history of sea swimming. Album closer ‘Who I’ll Try To Be’ is firmly on the personal end of the spectrum centred on home and family so we feel we may have come full circle from the itinerant opener. The choir on the final chorus underlines the warmth and community of the tune.
‘The Toothpaste And The Tube’ is a good collection of songs that will be a strong addition to BoT’s live set. Overall, the personal tunes leave a more lasting impression than the political ones with ‘Send Me A Bird’ being particularly memorable.
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