The Banjo As Puke/The Banjo As Punk
An essay by Blood Benalto
What is punk rock? Is it a full out revolution of the prototypical angry youth? Is it a nihilistic philosophy of death and destruction? Is it the irresponsible ingestion of controlled substances? Is it the feeling of beautiful terror you get when your back is up against the wall and all you can do is lash out or die? Or is it the most misunderstood of instruments, the one that has plagued the turnip-truck riding, Ozarks living, beer swilling, attempted Burt Reynolds rapping, salt of the earth redneck types
with nightmarish visions of Deliverance styled horror - the banjo?
In the world of post-modern art it is not so much the quality of one's creation as the intent, the passion, and the characters behind the event that determine the significance of a given piece of work. Gone are the days of reverie for prodigious talents, for men who braved hours of hermetic solitude in an effort to master their given domain. From Michelangelo to Mozart, the masters have fallen and the hacks have risen to the peak of "haut-culture," dominating the most modern realms of artistic expression. Just as the classicists were replaced by the modernists, who were in turn soon replaced by more comical genres, and characterized by their semi-serious, self-effacing pranks (most clearly exemplified by the rise of the dadaism and later pop art), prog rock was supplanted by punk, which was supplanted by Benalto when that genre too risked becoming plagued by over-intellectualization and paralysis due to doctrinal rigidity.
The cyclical nature of the universe extends from the great events of history, to the smallest, most isolated social groups, and the when Benalto became ensnared in their own rigid dogma of cruelty and apathetic ambition, the time had come to change, and they did so valiantly. Instead of waiting for outside forces to unseat them from their respective thrones in the pantheon of rock, the Toqueface-provoked internal maelstrom of change and revolution completely revitalized the group. No longer spurred forth by the irony of their peers, Benalto began to explore both the metaphysical lands of the unconscious and the spirit world, to the historical significance and social purposes of music. Based on intensive research and hours of scouring through academic journals in various fields of study from sociology, far eastern mysticism, musical anthropology and ethnobiology, Toqueface attained a cosmic understanding of musicology and decided to expand the band's pallet. Hence their investment in the neo-traditional revival of the banjo!
What better instrument to use in a band that had always defied expectations, and marched to the beat of their own metaphorical cock-eyed, and half-drunk pirate of a drummer. Not only did the banjo tie the band to their historical brethren (Alberta being after all the Ozarchs of the north), but it expanded their own minds and forced them to ponder their own place in the rustic lands of the lonesome prairie. Their oeuvre has after all always been one of isolation, due to their separation from the rest of the world, and the development of a sound that characterized a special place in time. The banjo by its very nature allows an artist to express this sense of remoteness and seclusion, while also harkening back to the days of month long blizzards and toiling through the droughts and disasters of the modern era.
In a sense, the banjo encompasses the dimming light of the last remaining humanity in an era of mechanization and technology, and the hard fought concessions and liberties of a subculture on the verge of extinction. In this brave new era, a new faceless mass will arise, and a grayness will fall
over the land; fighting against the oppressive nature of one global culture are the daring few, those who resist the changes as best they can, fighting with a barrage of noise from the garage, or plotting reckless abandon from their basement. These are the true punk rockers, mohawked or not, the proud
and few who resist passive occupation of the mind by outside forces with sinister plans. Though they may be unaware they have an ally in Benalto. And they have a tool that will rally forces, the new resistance, and that tool is the banjo. And it is great, a weapon of unspoken power. And we will win. And the banjo will be punk rock forever.