2 Taks Back – Coming Home Again (2012)

2 Taks Back, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based foursome, offers no-frills rock on their new project Coming Home Again, music that’s unadorned in the very best old-school way.

That’s an increasingly rare and welcome thing, in a world of popular music that’s become more about style than substance. Instead, 2 Taks Back has absorbed influences from across the classic-rock spectrum – and, in short order, fashioned them into a new sound. For instance, “Run Away” begins with a crunchy riff from lead guitarist Mike Chandler and a vocal from Curtis Hartsook that are both straight out of Tom Petty. But 2 Taks Back drummer Chris Dunlap and bassist Tim Colley keep thumping, hard and ever steady. As the song’s tension builds, it moves from sounding like a Heartbreakers outtake into something uniquely their own.

“Losing You” goes deeper into the underlying influences that always informed Petty in the first place, exploring some of the Byrds’ country-rock rhythms. But Chandler loses nothing in the transition, as he offers a series of knife-edge licks in between Hartsook’s lonely yowls. Colley and Dunlap then come alive during the song’s lengthy instrumental interlude, and Chandler dashes toward a sizzling, fleet-fingered conclusion. When Hartsook returns, “Losing You” has taken on a menace that wasn’t there before – turning the track’s vaguely elegiac lyrics into something more akin to an angry accusation.

“A Little Thing” doesn’t build on that aggression, so much as completely diffuse it with a sun-drenched heartland groove. This is the flipside of love’s coin, the endless dawn of new love transformed into a feel-good rock song. Listen closely enough, and there’s a Southern rock attitude moving underneath “A Little Thing,” something that’s explored more fully on “Dark Side” – which shambles along at a sly little Allman Brothers-type pace, only it’s not so cluttered since 2 Taks Back works as a lean and tough quartet. The album’s title track adds enough dark portent to the proceedings that it begins to recall the doomed love songs of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but with a good bit less bravado. Hartsook sings about a lost opportunity with an open-hearted honesty, handing the lyric with a perfectly calibrated quietness and grace – something that gives “Coming Home Again” a lasting resonance.

2 Tak Back plugs in again for “I’ll Be the One,” with Chandler letting loose a series of gurgling thoughts while Hartsook switches to a rueful coo that would bring a twinkle to Neil Young’s eye. Thoughout, Dunlap offers these boisterous fills, and that only adds to the song’s disjointed sense of heartbreak. As “I’ll Be the One” roars to its close, Chandler once again settles into a nasty guitar signature – answering whatever hurt has come their way with a series of stinging rebukes.

“Take Your Time” eases up a bit on the throttle, with Chandler downshifting into a plaintive echo, something that’s perfectly suited to Hartsook’s lyrical warning about the way life can set us back. “Believe In,” punctuated by a stuttering cadence from Colley and Dunlap, leaves plenty of space for Hartsook and Chandler to explore what becomes an uplifting meditation on staying true. “Don’t You Touch My Girl,” perhaps as expected, returns to the dangerous menace of Coming Home Again’s title track – only this time, it’s with none of the shaded emotions of that earlier track. This one sounds like a bar fight waiting to happen, with a stomping rhythm, a cluster of serrated guitar licks, and a drink-my-whiskey-but-lay-off-my-old-lady narrative to match.

Finally, there’s “South of the Border,” another Petty-ish rocker that sends Coming Home Again off with a gas-pedal-mashing sense of propulsion. 2 Taks Back catches a tasty little groove, and then rides it right out of town.

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Coming Home Again

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.