Vancouver's Dakona have taken the typical route to releasing a major-label debut -- I only hope they don't end up like the majority of bands who have ventured down the same road before them. After forming in 1997, the quartet worked hard developing a powerful contemporary sound and released two independent albums, one of which, Ordinary Heroes quickly became the number one best-selling independent album in Vancouver. All of which, of course, drew the attention of the big boys wanting a piece of the action and Dakona signed to Maverick after courting the advances of several other majors.
So, with the release of Perfect Change Dakona have reached the Promised Land, or so it seems. Produced by Rob Cavallo and Arnold Lanni, their major-label debut sounds as lush and grand as they could have hoped, but for all the big name producers they provide and sizeable advances they give, major record companies have a habit of destroying bands like Dakona -- just ask July For Kings, Nine Days, or Bliss 66 about the career development they received at the hands of their respective labels.
Judging by the quality of the material on the album, it would be an almighty shame were Dakona to suffer the same fate, as they have the talent to be around for a very long time. U2, Our Lady Peace, and Creed are just a few of the bands who have undoubtedly influenced Dakona and vocalist Ryan McAllister sounds uncannily like Bono and OLP's vocalist Raine Maida at times.
But don't dismiss Dakona as merely being a repeat of what's come before. McAllister's lyrics and themes are refreshingly mature and provide a real depth and sincerity to the epic melodies that dominate most of the songs. It also seems that the potentially devastating crisis of switching producer mid-session hasn't affected the feel of the album either, as Rob Cavallo has impressively built on the foundations laid by Arnold Lanni to produce a typically polished yet wonderfully hard-hitting sound.
There's nothing particularly unique or groundbreaking about the driving modern rock of first single "Good", but the background harmonies and general vibe of the song imbue it with a real infectious appeal that it shares with the powerfully evocative opener "Waiting". Although Dakona's faith is not overtly apparent (their deal with Maverick allows their music to be promoted in Christian music circles too), the band are clearly musicians with a Christian ethos, and tracks like "Trampoline" and "Revelation" reveal more weighty themes than most modern rock bands choose to deal with. The latter tackles the subject of an apparent crisis of faith, while the former extols the peace one can find in spirituality. Weighty, confusing issues perhaps, but they are addressed in a sensitive way which doesn't dominate the music; in fact it's the other way round, with the giant hook of "Richest Man in the World" positively overshadowing the simplistic nature of the song's message.
"Center of the World" slows down the pace a notch or two, while "Untouchable" is another impressive mid-paced effort along with the Vertical Horizon-esque title track, which closes the album in fine style. The acoustic ballad "In God's Name" is sincere enough, but Dakona are much better on tunes like "Trust", a soaring rocker on which the comparisons between McAllister and Bono become most apparent and a song that could really have a massive commercial impact. But the outstanding track amongst a host of contenders is "Soul 4 Sale", a punchy up-tempo track demonstrating a band with huge talent and a big future ahead.
Perfect Change is an outstanding debut, an album in every sense of the word with very little filler and the emphasis consistently on quality songs and thoughtful lyrics. It's a tough industry for an emerging band with very few of them going on to forge long-term careers, but all the evidence suggests that Dakona have what it takes to make it. Success ultimately depends on Maverick providing more backing to them than MCA did for July for Kings in 2002.