Review Summary: A very accomplished outing from a singer/songwriter who obviously prefers Green Day and REM to Simon and Garfunkel.
How can you be a socially conscious singer/songwriter and a punk at the same time? Actually, that should be easy. Before punk got identified exclusively with the Oi Oi crowd, mohawk hairstyle and pins it actually WAS in many ways socially conscious music and not exclusive to one, two three, four shouts and spitting back and forth.
But then, what if you mix punk energy, grunge sound akin to Pearl Jam for example, astute singer/songwriters like Andy Pratt and new wave era Elvis Costello (an astute singer/songwriter in his own right. On the evidence of Glass River, his new EP, you get Bostonian Paul Maged.
So how do you get to the point of creating, to quote Cream, such a “Strange Brew”? Well, you study music at the Boston Conservatory and then the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York. That gets you a chance to start forming that brew on two albums and another EP and to couple such a musical concoction with socially conscious lyrics you act in a number of independent movies and do stand-up comedy.
And Maged tackles almost anything, from title-telling “Corporate Hell” to climate change in “For The Sea”. He doesn’t miss the personal relationship theme that is usually associated with singer/songwriters, like in the opener “Choices”. But what is most impressive about this EP is the level of musical diversity Maged pulls off without making it a messy mixture.
The opener “Guns For Hire” is an extra sophisticated version of Green Day sound, while “Corporate Hell” musically sounds like Costello jamming with Ben Folds backed by Pearl Jam’s rhythm section. “Choices” only on its surface might take you to the singer/songwriter territory, sounding like something directly out of Andy Pratt’s book,.The title track that follows, also subtitled “The Ballad of Alan & Jane, on the other hand, is R.E.M. in all their moods, Maged’s voice getting quite close to Stipe’s. Probably the reason behind a double billing.“For The Sea” gets us back to Pratt or even Meatloaf in a ballad mood, while the closer “Life Goes To Prelude” could serve as a brief musical ode to Springsteen.
Describing all that on paper could sound a bit too disparate, but Maged was able to pull everything together with some deep-thinking lyrics and above all exquisite singing and musicianship with excellent production from Sean Gill of The Passengerz. An excellent EP that demands detailed research into his previous work.