Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The title song/opener here is
appropriate: for most of the past decade this hard-working band have
been playing everywhere from small town bars and main centres around
New Zealand to “London, Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii, Vegas, Cali, LA
. . .” and more, which they tick off on the promise of “Fire
layin' it down” in your town.
Now on their fourth album, their
winning reggae template hasn't been changed much although the
consciousness roots message has – with only a couple of exceptions
- mostly been made more soft and soulful (the groove-riding,
lovers-style on Sweet As, Feels Like and
Katchafire have sometimes put the
spotlight on hard times and race relations and here they weigh in
with the memorable Lead Us with its reference to brothers
falling on the street or ending up in jail, and the assertion “they
try to take our culture, they try to segregate”.
On the Pacific-influenced You're
Dreaming (“now you can control your feelings by taking a role
in the helping of your peeps”) there is an enjoyable Jimmy
Cliff-style rolling rhythm and vocal.
Most moving is the gentle and soulful
Seek Ye First – with appealing hints of George Benson
cruisey guitar – in which the promised kingdom to come is placed
alongside the importance of Maoritanga.
Not everything is as strong: the MOR
pop-reggae of One Stop Shop – with vocoder – has a weak
lyric (“I'm your one-stop shop when you're ready to drop”) as
does Chance Are which just sounds clumsy (“remember that
time at Sweetwaters . . . we got to hurry because Herbs is on, got no
more money . . .”). It's also hard to know what to make of the
“they wanna lick you up like a crème brulee . . . you have the
right to a dance parade” on the crispy chopping beats of Is This
At such times – and on Serious
which opens with “may I pick a lily from your daisy room” –
Katchafire sound like that time on the road has taken a toll on their
While they deliver sophisticated and
intelligent arrangements, as well as first class playing, some of
these lyrics – many about the joys of love and keeping calm amidst
the haste – are over-sweet on an album which comes up short in the
tartness they are capable of.