Let me explain that a bit: putting on the critic's hat is fun. Explaining why Heaven Tonight is a better album than The Doctor probably doesn't really need to be done; after all, anyone with functioning ears should be able to figure that much out for themselves. It's enjoyable - it must be, for me to have indulged in it for the past five months - but it's also largely unnecessary. Discussing why there are times when the truly devoted among us might voluntarily choose to queue up "Man-U-Lip-U-Lator" instead of "On Top of the World", though: that's where the heart of this entire exercise lies. I've had several great email exchanges about just that sort of thing with various readers over the course of this series, and I'd like to pause here a moment to thank everyone who took the time to check in. This may sound corny, but it's 100% true: great bands tend to attract great fans.
Fans, and fandom, have been the crux of this entire series. It's important to remember that criticism is just a fancy word for a resume or a by-line; if we are to call it what it is, the word we'd be looking for is opinion. Case in point: one of the emails I received was an impassioned plea that I re-evaluate Busted, long my pick for the absolute nadir of the Cheap Trick catalog. The letter wasn't a "you jerk, how could you" type of thing; instead, it was more of a "please don't deprive yourself of..." sort of tone. I went back and listened to it again, hopefully. After all, what a great little dramatic turn that would have been: reader sets blogger straight! 'Twas not to be, alas: I still don't care much for about 75% of that album. I am glad, however, that this particular reader disagrees with me: I love Cheap Trick, and I'd rather that their worst album be loved by someone than loathed by all. To put it another way: I'm more of a fan of the tightrope walkers, whereas this gentleman prefers the elephant show, but we both really love the circus and, at the end of the day, that's what counts. Criticism would only be truly useful if the quality of music were quantifiable in some way; personally, I thank god that it is not.
As for the future of Cheap Trick themselves, we'll see what develops. There are some rumors: a possible new album and a possible Cheap Trick museum to be established in Chicago or Rockford lead the pack. There are also some questions: will Bun E. ever return to touring, or has he left the building for good? Will they ever be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Will they ever bring the Dream Police show anywhere even vaguely near New York? (Okay, so maybe that last one is only being asked by me.)
Conjecture is fun, and it's great that myself and other folks like me still care so much as to indulge in it. The truth of it all is much more simple than any of that, actually: if it all ended tomorrow, if Cheap Trick announced their retirement effective immediately, I'd be very sad. I'd also be left with hours of great music, tons of irreplaceable memories, and the absolutely perfect soundtrack to the last twenty-three years of my life.
Really, what more can you possibly ask of your heroes?