Moving Production (2007)

Dreadtown is the debut album from the Otara-based reggae group Three Houser Down. The 11 piece group was formed by the three Pome’e brothers with the help of their Tongan family. Hopefully they signal the emergence of a roots music scene within Auckland’s Pacific Island community.

On first listen I was immediately struck by the tightness of their sound and the high production quality. The album is filled with upbeat riddims set against lush vocal harmonies and sun-drenched horn melodies.  

It is easy to see why many critics have already compared them to Katchafire. Their infectious radio-friendly riffs and vocal harmonies are certainly reminiscent of K-fire. The lead vocals of Rob Pome’e also remind of Katchafire’s Logan Bell at times. However there are several elements that distinguish them.

Pome’e’s vocal style, although similar to Bell at times, is incredibly diverse. On his more soulful tracks he reminds me of P-Digsss and at other times he bears startling a resemblance to the sweet tones of the legendary Sugar Minott.  Also unlike K-fire, Three Houses Down includes an awesome three piece horn section that adds some real punch to several of the tracks.

Furthermore, the album’s lyrical content is often overtly political, commenting on topics from the over representation of Polynesians within our penal system (in Duty Solicitor) to the war in Iraq (in Soldiers). The group also declare a strong influence from Rastafari. So in short, they are not Katchafire clones.

My only real criticism of this album is that at times (particularly during the two lover’s tracks) they take on an RnB aesthetic that is a bit to soppy for my taste. With the strength of their musicianship and their conscious lyrics it would be mint to see them take on a slightly less mainstream approach. I would love to hear some more militancy in their sound.

However all in all this is a really strong album that I think could do exceedingly well. In particular I think the album could have massive potential in Hawaii where Polynesian Reggae like this (but of an inferior quality) absolutely dominates the air waves and sales charts.