To be awake in 2020 is to be aware of shifting tides and polarizing opinions. For Paul Maged, addressing this was important — especially with his influences dipped in punk and rock: two genres known for taking a stand.
On Culture War, Maged confronts politics with genre shifts and storytelling: weaving something that is at once personal and public. “Culture War” launches into the spirit of callouts with big energy and melodic vocals, followed closely by a riveting electric guitar. Here, the problems are listed and unpacked before “Lose Your Privilege” and “Cult 45” take the subject matter further. Good fights hate on the former, and the present moment spills out from the latter.
Paul Maged is more than a rock and roll activist, he is also a storyteller, and nowhere is this more clear than on “Illusions”, which tells a dystopian tale with the addition of a neutral voice. Sure, there is critique here, but there is also a sense of connection. As a bonus, it has one of the catchiest riffs on the record.
Genre also refuses to be pinned down, and Maged shows his chops with an optimistic ballad, “We Are”, that is twofold. This, along with “Shine On Your Light”, serves as the optimistic high point of the record, while also finding variation in musical tone. The grandness lingers on until “When Dreams Don’t Come True”, which closes the record on a more acoustic note with a pop melody.
To be stagnant is to give in, and with all elements of Culture War, Paul Maged rebels against this and the current systems of oppression that sometimes seem to surround us.