Clash scores its album reviews, with a mark out of 10 awarded to each assessed LP, in print, online and on our award-winning app. But what do these numbers mean? It’s a question we in the editorial team have asked ourselves. So we’re making public this new guide to rating Clash-reviewed records – the same guide that all of our critics are following from issue 93 (April 2014) onwards.
The reason for introducing this guide is because the Clash editorial team felt that too many strong 8/10 scores (and a good number of 9/10s, too) were appearing in the review section, making it impossible for the reader to really understand which were the best albums in the bunch, those recommended discs worth checking out.
We’re certainly not saying that an individual’s opinion should be compromised to better correspond with the ‘overall’ Clash perspective on a band, but we do want writers to really think about what they’re doing when scoring an album. These little numbers set important precedents for Clash, and for the respective albums’ campaigns. It’s vital that they’re right.
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0/10: No album should ever receive this. Why? Because if an album exists then it’s achieved what so many don’t: creation. It’s out there, the result of hard work and, often, no little personal risk and investment. And every record, whatever its weaknesses, appeals to someone, in some way. The Clash team doesn’t believe in the ‘awarding’ of 0/10 scores. They’re attention-seeking articles usually written to stroke the ego of the misguided writer behind them. Usually.
1/10: An appalling album – though perhaps the packaging is pretty nice. Also, see the 0/10 points above. Give your awful record at least one mark for effort. The band got its name right on the sleeve, so there you go.
2/10: An album almost entirely without merit, but with a slight suggestion of what might have been. Perhaps there’s a single outstanding song on the set, or a particular passage that piques the attention like the rest of it doesn’t.
3/10: An album of frequent failings, where ambition is evident but its execution tremendously mishandled. Could do better, so very much better.
4/10: Here’s where things get more interesting, as the act in question has clearly aimed to extend its remit, to work up existing strengths and take them forward. But while not awfully realised, the results don’t do justice to the intentions. Ultimately the record can’t be recommended to anyone outside of its makers’ most loyal fanbase.
5/10: The very epitome of averageness, a record about which nothing too critical and nothing overly celebratory can be written. This is what many a writer, previously, would deem a 6/10 album.
6/10: A good record with plenty of effort made to take the artist’s career further, to go beyond mere consolidation and deliver a record to be proud of. It might not be wholly consistent, but the highs outnumber the lows.
7/10: A very good album, with quality control high in all areas. An album to return to for repeat spins, each of which is as enjoyable as the last. It might not break boundaries but the execution is bang on. To the right ears it’s an album of the year, within its field. Perhaps the record is a little divisive, but for the right reason – because it’s doing something unexpected.
8/10: An excellent album, a standout in its genre and a genuine contender for year-end lists. This album exhibits high quality control, several moments of magic, great (or certainly the most appropriate) production and fine details at every stage of its development, encapsulated in a collection that really delivers. Most first-listen 9/10s are more likely 8/10s.
9/10: A contender for a position amongst the reviewer’s favourite albums of all time, with real longevity. Maybe it takes its genre in a new, exciting direction, or absolutely nails the constituents associated with the form of music without a single slip up. This is going to be a top album of any year, even without genre divisions. Everyone should hear this album – and that’s what we want a Clash 9/10 to indicate.
10/10: No new-release album reviewed for Clash will get this. Or rather, it’s highly unlikely. A 10/10 album is like nothing you’ve heard before, a complete game-changer which is probably only recognisable as the amazing set it is with the benefit of contextual hindsight. 10/10 scores will therefore probably only ever be assigned to reissues.
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