23 June 2018, Common Room, Hastings By Michael Hawksworth
… as they walk by and say,
“the old man in the window, what’s the deal with
– fucked by the muse, friends,
thank you –
and I roll a cigarette with one hand
like the old bum
I am, and then thank and curse the gods
That’s from a poem called ‘One More Good One’ by the American poet Charles Bukowski, who from the ‘50s to the ‘90s, dragged poetry down to his level, which was quite often floor- or pavement-level due to his legendary way with a bottle. From this vantage he had a clear view of the low-lives and the dives, the broken people, the grimy underside of an entertainment-obsessed, unfulfilled urban dreamland.
It’s a seductive position to assume, surveying the phantasmagoria with a bleary eye. Its like a documentary smeared with booze, and if there’s an American singer that epitomises this word-spilling, romantic loser/maestro, it’s Tom Waits. The eccentricities and disjointedness of his delivery and images ensure that he’s cracked, that he’s “one of us” and not anthropologising the human stain from a great height.
It’s Waits more than anyone else that Shane Hollands, front-poet of Freaky Meat, channels with his own gravelly voice, though now and then you pick up Captain Beefheart intonations, not to mention great little lyrical details worthy of both. So even though this is what you might call an American way of looking, it also happens to copy over to a New Zealand experience pretty well; NZ of the blink-town, NZ of the box shop, NZ of the Mini-van hitcher, NZ of the Karangahape Rd cig-bludger, NZ of the 2pm TAB fug, NZ of the 4am walk of shame.
Meanwhile behind Hollands, Freaky Meat, the band, lay down open-ended jazz-funk with expert little punctuations – these guys can really play. They’re at the same time really tight and kind of lazy, and adepts at seemingly any genre, like session musos but in a good way because they provide a comfortable bed for Shane’s gritty style. I have to say though, it’s a close run thing – if they got any nearer to the outskirts of uptown jazz, I probably wouldn’t be buying Freaky Meat as a proposition. As it is, there were a couple of moments where their genre method slipped into stylistic pastiche – 1. Cod reggae (ouch), 2. Sub-Santana guitar solo (yikes!).
At their best, though, they do slightly queasy Doors-ish grooves, over which Hollands has the flexibility to really extemporize and, um, solilo-jive?, hat brim pulled down low, hands telling a story of their own. Check these guys out next time they crawl into town.