Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Pit of Doom

As any enthusiast or expert will tell you, an important part about Texas bbq is arguing about what it is. This is because the subject of an argument about Texas bbq is really Texas itself. The issue of bbq in Texas is that it occupies a strange space between its cultural diverse origins, via Mexican immigrants and day-laborers (barbicoa), German and Czech immigrants (sausage), cowboys, and others on the one hand, and Texas' grit-toothed hard-headed jingoism. Or in the words of Robb Walsh, author of "Legends of Texas Barbeque", "Texas bbq is a feisty mutt."

It is not surprising to find that bbq, a food with such a high gravitational pull for passion and enthusiasm, attracts in Texas a high-rate of tumbleweedy, mesquite-smoked poetic flavour, in expressions such as 'feisty mutt'.

In other words, BBQ is a place where Texas both shines with its biggest shiny-steel six-pointed hard-on about itself, and where it in danger of losing its footing about who it thinks it is. That's because food, along with music, is a cultural force that moves much faster than men's hearts. So when a group of foreigners create a sustained immigrant identity somewhere, their doner kebabs and curries and smoked goats along with their tangos and their infectious booty hits are often going to be their best or most pronounced cultural ambassadors.

Marlo and I drove to Lockhart, thirty miles south of Austin, to Smitty's Market. Where the pit is the first thing you see on the inside, the beautifully black, almost funereally somber pit, like a giant rothko painting that also makes pork ribs. Like if Sunno))) had a cook-out. In Druid robes, cooking a steer.

It is truly the pit of doom.

There is no sauce to be served at Smitty's. Unnecessary. All that is necessary is a knife, some butcher paper, and a small stack of white bread, and a whole avocado you can buy in the seating area, and some beers, and then some blue bell ice cream. And holy shit the pork ribs were good. And the brisket, holy shit the brisket was really good, especially the pork ribs.

A fitting soundtrack to the elegant doomness of Smitty's pit would be Earth's new record, which continues a kind of sonic voyage westwards for the group, a departure begun with Hex: or, Printing in the Infernal Method, which, it is not surprising to learn, was heavily inspired by Cormac MacCarthy's western horror gothic acknowledged classic, Blood Meridian. In fact, Cormac and Earth are such a pure and beautiful aesthetic combination, there should be a spoken-word mash-up between the two, like Burroughs & Kurt Cobain, "The Priest they Called Him".

That would rule.

"Bees Made Honey.." adds more of a spacey psych-rock Dead Meadow-type vibe to the sound, with some later tracks approaching the dusty somber landscapes of the Dirty Three, almost Nick Cave skeletal piano parts.


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