For an artist whose previous album was an amicable foray into children’s music, the swift and sharp turn of a protest song condemning warfare may be a surprise. For those that have charted the folk punk of Beans on Toast for longer than a year though, Against the War will not be a surprise. It may shock those who believed the music of fighting back for a known cause was a doomed avenue, but this piece condemning the war in Ukraine is a decent reaction. Others have tried and failed to capture the third-party animosity and anger. U2 and Pink Floyd, those heavy-hitting heroes of every cause around, failed to chart much progress. Beans on Toast does.
Warfare is not about sides it is about perspective and understanding the horror of it. Boomer bands have brought themselves to the knees of one side under attack. Beans on Toast charts the proposed inevitabilities of invasion and the contrast that comes from sticking an acoustic guitar under that. Protest song does well to highlight issues with brevity and simplicity. There is no way to do that than how Against the War opens. A protest song. It is as simple as the whistle that opens this piece as though it were an advert for Homebase. There is more to Against the War than its simple statement. What Beans on Toast has nailed here is the need for simple aims with broader themes and lyrics to both support the line of argument and also present relevancy to the world around a listener, past and present.
Despite the clear presentation of time and place, the chilling lines of “watching war crimes on my phone,” bring about modernity, a new step to warfare that never quite hit the pre-21st century artist. That horror, an absolute dejection and questioning of humanity, is an application of horrible warfare to the real and modern world. Beans on Toast does not walk the fine line between good and bad, he has called it as it is. Jay McAllister plays it straight down the middle because he is “not sure there are good guys and bad guys anymore.” Just the man and his guitar striking through against war. Not to a particular side, but the social media bubble that pits people against themselves and their convictions, is startling. Victims are victims and war is war. Beans on Toast hits through with an appropriate protest against the act of war.
Narrative shifts and fear of peace come through as they did for Elvis Costello on that fine cover all those decades ago. Capitalism has driven the wheels of war further than ever before and Against the War does some heavy lifting. It is an apt and relevant war track, and long after the war has ended, it will still be such. Warfare has not quite changed beyond the weapons and the people thrown into the mix. Companies still profit, people are torn apart defending or criticising an attack and defence they do not understand on social media platforms. Beans on Toast is against that, and being against that is the necessary stance to have, not just from a humanitarian stand, but a thoughtful one too.