I used to hate banjos. I thought they were inherently corny, and they had a sort of unpleasant metallic twang, rather as if someone had taken a set of those old, spring-based doorstops and pitched them up painfully.
I started to come around a little bit. I realized that those very same sonic qualities could be musically effective in certain minor-key settings (credit 16 Horsepower here), and for whatever reason the corn factor was reduced somewhat, so that when folks like Surfin’ Sufjan Stevens started putting banjos on his recordings, they added an interesting texture to a rich sonic tapestry.
But then, you know, Stevens became the god of the musical blogosphere, and a zillion other bands decided that, hey, let’s listen to Philip Glass and old folk records, and let’s throw a banjo, a French horn, and two old guys playing zithers on every other song, all while singing with affected innocence about…corn. Or dusty old roads. Or the wheat swaying in the moonlit breeze. Of Pittsburgh.
And now I pretty much hate banjos again. (Not quite as fond of old Surfin’ Stevens yet…and by the way, Suffy: if you’re really going to record an album for every state, it’s been, what, nearly three years since Illinois? I don’t think you’re going to live to 175…)