ufoHe’s back and this week there’s a startling admission from our resident classic rock columnist – he believes he still hasn’t mastered the art of the album review.

The focus for this week’s musings is Pink Floyd’s latest – and last – album. Let’s just say Self Made Man has his say.

Read his thoughts exclusively right here every week. 


Writing a good CD review is a work of art, one I’ve yet to master.

Yet some of the most feted music critics who’ve ever put pen to paper are capable of delivering the most ridiculous verdicts.

Infamously, Led Zeppelin’s first four albums were panned by the majority of reviewers in the days and weeks following their release.

In more modern times, Classic Rock’s best album of 2005 was The Darkness’s follow-up to their hugely successful debut.

Let’s just say it wasn’t that esteemed publication’s finest moment. One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back is now widely regarded as a dud.

In contrast, Led Zeppelin I, II, III and IV are accepted as classics of their time.

On the occasions, I’ve been asked to write reviews for this website, I’ve probably listened to an album three or four times before drawing some sort of conclusion.

It’s hard to say what my criterion is before giving the CD a mark out of ten.

Instant appeal is a factor, catchability and  musicianship too but they’re such an arbitrary set of rules, I wouldn’t recommend them as a definitive framework.

Let’s face it, we’re all searching for something very different, indeed very personal, when listening to an album that very first time.

That’s why we arrive at such contrasting conclusions.

Take Pink Floyd’s new CD The Endless River – the most pre-ordered album in Amazon history.

It’s also possibly their most divisive, judging by the comments on the Amazon website.

The last time I looked, 215 reviewers gave it five stars, 52 four stars, 54 three stars, 28 two stars and 62 one star. (For the record, I’d give it four and a half)

Here’s one comment:

“This is a huge disapointment. Mainly instrumental music, nothing memorable.

Sounds like unfinished tunes, only the background made. Only for the completists.”

And here’s another:

“Some lovely musical pieces on this, if you truly love the Floyd style ( all the way from Piper to Division) then you will love this album..”

Which one is the most accurate? Well, both of them.

Which is the better review? Take your pick.

Without going into the intricacies of PF’s last-ever studio album, it is amazing how 53 minutes of largely instrumental music can have such contrasting effects on its listeners.

But that’s the thing about reviews. Writing one is not a science. It’s more of an art-form and we know how modern art can divide opinion.

Some albums have that instant ‘Wow’ factor, others are growers. Some I have hailed as modern classics after a few listens only to largely forget about them after six months or so.

For example, when Aerosmith released Music From Another Dimension last year, I declared it a definite return to form for the Boston quintet and had no hesitation in including it in my top ten albums of the year.

Now? Well, I certainly don’t think it’s a poor album but it pales in comparison to the band’s classics.

The Black Keys’ Turn Blue which hit the shelves eight months ago, did not exactly hit me between the eyes when I first heard it but it’s definitely a grower and a strong contender for my album of the year.

Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill and Clockwork Angels by Rush were albums I loved on first listen and two years on, they remain among my favourites of those albums released in the past decade.

And that’s the secret of a great album – having the melodies and originality to impress the listener on first airing but possessing the depth, intrigue and layers to ensure that love affair is a lingering one.

Ian Murtagh