One of Tommy Womack’s favorite subjects is the absurd and glorious power of rock ‘n’ roll. The title track of his 1998 solo debut Positively Na Na nails the bittersweet gut punch of watching the music scene pass you by: “Let’s see a show of hands/Who keeps up with bands/When baby’s crying?” And Womack’s ode to the “The Replacements”, from 2002’s Circus Town, is rock criticism with punch lines and a melody: “When they were good, God got up to dance.”
That same description applies to Womack’s work — the unabashedly gun-slinging guitar licks, the shout-along anthems, the sly lyrical and musical allusions to Johnny Cash and Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick and “Chevy Van”. As he says of the Replacements, Tommy Womack is “the last of a dying breed.”
On his fifth album, however, his favorite subject is himself. That includes his artistic anxieties in the opening “A Songwriter’s Prayer”, and he also whines, but humorously, about his mental and economic health in both “I Want A Cigarette” (where he frets while waiting to see his shrink) and the self-explanatory “Too Much Month At The End Of The Xanax”.
Most of all, though, There, I Said It! is about Womack’s acceptance that magazine-cover success, or even the more modest goal of earning a living with his music, may well forever remain out of reach. Which is just to say that, this time out, his personal songs are indistinguishable from his rock ‘n’ roll numbers. The album’s title refers, after all, to his wife’s request that he admit what he’s been resisting for decades. “Look in the mirror and repeat after me,” she tells him. “I’m never gonna be a rock star.”
Probably not. More proof, I guess, that life’s not fair. But There, I Said It! also proves, again, that Womack is a clever and discerning songwriter as well as a punk/country/arena-rock smartass with a swelling heart of gold. The pre-eminent rocker this time out is the midtempo “I Couldn’t Care Less”, fueled by equally bitter doses of organ and electric guitar.
More often, this midlife-angst-but-no-crisis album is quiet, even sweet. On “Nice Day”, Womack goes swimming with his “sweetheart and our boy,” and is pleasantly amazed that “I never freaked out, it was nice.” A few songs later, he more talks than sings his way through a seven-minute tune inspired by spotting a telephone poster for a band called “Alpha Male & The Canine Mystery Blood”.
He doesn’t go to the show as he no longer has the interest or the energy, he says, to stay up late on a whim just because a band has an intriguing name. But it lifts his heart to think that maybe his son, a budding drummer, will one day play music and “go somewhere only young people can.” But the song, like the album as a whole, reminds that balding 43-year-old rockers can still go worthwhile, heart-lifting places as well.