"The Replacements," Tommy Womack declares on his latest album, "played rock & roll. They were the last of a dying breed." Appropriately, Womack has been, like his kindred spirits in the 'Mats, a punk-rock smartass with a swelling heart of gold ever since his days with Government Cheese ("a band you never heard of," he writes in the subtitle to his rock & roll memoir Cheese Chronicles). Just as significantly, he's been a discerning songwriter with an ear for the kind of hooks that'll make you grin like a goof.
At Twangfest last month, Womack wowed the crowd with roaring guitar-pop versions of songs from his excellent new Circus Town, delivered with a showman's sense both for ax-wielding drama and the tart, well-timed punchline. He also played older favorites, such as "Skinny and Small," a kind of revenge-of-the-nerds for the college-rock set, and a hilariously epic version of "A Little Bit of Sex," in which he lambasted ancient and flabby rock stars, among other deserving targets. Even when cracking wise, though, Womack's no cynic. Our goals and motivations may often be absurd, he makes clear again and again, but they remain marvelously human -- and noteworthy because of it.
Womack's music brims with small, good, perfect things -- guitars that goad you to crank them, choruses that inspire you to shout along, lyrics that make your heart swell with some forgotten loss or long-gone gain. He plays great rock & roll, in other words. God help us if he's the last of his breed.
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