03 November 2020 (released)
20 November 2020
For now, it looks like America will have extracted the cancer that has plagued it for the last four years and will welcome a competent and decent leader to the White House again in January 2021. The orange stain of a president has left the States crippled by a mismanaged pandemic response, tearing itself apart with conspiracy theories and a strong resurgence of racist vitriol. This has left the country's reputation in tatters on the world stage with the potential for even more conflict if Trump decides to light a match in the middle east as he leaves. Over the last few years, there has been protest music but maybe not to the level one might expect when the country is being run by such a deeply despicable baby of a man. Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' made a wide impact, Public Enemy returned with barbed bars for the administration, and YG and Nipsey Hustle's 'Fuck Donald Trump' rang out across the land when Biden was declared the new president a few days after Election Day. Notably, the rock world has been somewhat absent from this duty this time around. The late '60s were so rife with protest anthems that they filled the charts from Dylan to Buffalo Springfield etc. The Iraq war brought out rock musicians in droves again to shine a light on the treasonous acts being perpetrated by the administration. Now in 2020, rock seems to be left out of the conversation despite having plenty to rally against. Sure, the role of rock is waning in public culture. It's hard to imagine it ruling the charts again these days. However, it seems like the genre that has been defined by protest songs throughout the decades should have some representation.
New York-based artist Paul Maged released his latest album Culture War on Election Day. The record is a loud voice against the incompetencies and malicious policies of the Trump administration as well as an appeal to our better angels. The last four years can only be overcome with compassion, common sense, and hard work. Maged finds a compelling confluence to channel his political ire. Part Springsteen, part Green Day circa 2004's American Idiot, with the voice of an '80s hair metal frontman.
The title track kicks off the album with a throbbing punk rock energy. Maged decries the division of the culture war that has consumed every facet of American life. His grand voice screams to the sky “Culture war! Culture waaaaar!” like one big fist to the heavens. 'Lose Your Privilege' delves into just how insidious the tentacles of privilege are. This tight boogie examines the barriers faced by minorities and the poor and tries to crack the illusion that those in power have. Maged looks to smash all these preconceived notions.
'We Are' and 'Shine Your Light' show a lighter side, championing the good and righteous people just trying to live a good life. Quickly, Maged puts his focus back on dismantling the ideas holding us back with 'Cult 45', another sneering jab at Trump and his shameful legacy. “Corruption, obstruction, destruction/Mentally unfit!” he belts. The album's most interesting track, 'Illusions' features a female voice over and culminates in a searing jazzy prog break down.
Culture War makes plenty of great points that have needed to be screamed over the last four years. Although now with the election of Joe Biden, the points seem to be a little less prescient, there is still a vast ecosystem of right-wing nutjobs that have been emboldened and vindicated in spirit by this demagog. The ideas of this album need to be repeated regularly so we never again lose touch with reality like we did over the last four years.