It’s that time of the week again when Self Made Man gives us his take on the classic rock world.

And today he shares his thoughts on one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year. Check out our resident blogger every week exclusively on RUSHONROCK


I’ve often wondered how much time music journalists spend when reviewing a new album.

Do they sit down in a darkened room, with no distractions, and listen to it once, taking notes after each track?

Or is it necessary to play an album two, three or even four times before delivering a verdict?

Maybe these experts’ ears are so tuned in to what they do, they know instinctively whether or not a new piece of work is hit or miss.

I pose the question ten days after listening to Clockwork Angels, Rush’s 20th studio album, for the first time.

For it’s got me thinking about my own process of judging new music.

What can be said unequivocally about Clockwork Angels is that it is heavy and intense.

It’s certainly not what can be described as an easy listen with catchy choruses and instantly recognisable melodies.

Like most Rush fans, I’d been looking forward to the album for months and there was a genuine sense of excitement when it arrived earlier this month.

However, my initial reaction to its content was one of anti-climax. Not disappointment or outrage at the direction the band had taken.

More a case of feeling underwhelmed. After twice playing Clockwork Angels from start to finish, I hadn’t quite connected.

But, as I say, it’s not an easy album to listen to and I’d made the mistake of playing it on my home computer while working at the same time. In other words, I’d failed to give it my complete attention.

When I put it on in my car the following day, Clockwork Angels began to tick a lot of boxes. As I became more familiar with the tracks, I started connecting with them one by one.

It was a two-hour gym session which finally did it for me as I shut myself off from the outside world to listen intently on bike, treadmill and cross-trainer.

The Anarchist and The Garden were quickly established as personal favourites but with every listen,  as the multi-layered texture of the tracks revealed themselves to me, I discovered something new.

The title track, Headlong Flight and Seven Cities of Gold took on a new life and even Carnies, probably the last piece I “got into,”  met my approval.

Clockwork Angels would now rank in my top six Rush albums of all-time and is vying with Alabama Shakes’ debut release and Joe Bonamassa’s  Driving Towards the Daylight as my album of 2012

Perhaps if it continues to grow at its current rate, it will have no rivals by the end of the year.

Reviewing albums is and always will be a subjective exercise. Seven years ago, Classic Rock magazine infamously nominated The Darkness’s follow-up to Permission to Land as Best album of 2005.

Within months, the overwhelming consensus was that One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back was an almighty flop.

Rock history is littered with instant judgements which have subsequently proved embarrassing to the reviewer.

Classics such as The Beatles’ White Album, Led Zeppelin II, Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon are among the biggest selling albums of all-time yet were initially written off as musical junk.

I’m not for one moment, bracketing Clockwork Angels in such esteemed company but for those rock fans who’ve bought it and haven’t yet connected, don’t write it off yet. You’ll grow to love it…

Ian Murtagh