THE TOMS - s/t (2 CDs)

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Used and, of course, rare. 2005 reissue has been out of print since 2006 and prices continue to rise on it. Used copies go for $50 and up.

A five star reissue and album. n the grand tradition of Richard X. Heyman, Jeff and John Murphy, Tommy Keene, and other pop obsessives of the 1970s and '80s, Tom Marolda was a guy from New Jersey with an LP's worth of catchy tunes and the determination to see them put onto wax. Overdubbing himself into an efficient four-piece backing ensemble, Marolda cut 12 songs and pressed them up for release, and -- since he was the producer, engineer, drummer, guitarist, bassist, and vocalist on the album -- he chose an obvious name for his project: the Toms. While Marolda's record only seemed to find its way into the hands of the most obsessive power pop fans and record-collector types, enough of them heard it (or heard about it) that The Toms became a cult favorite that fetched high prices at collectors' shops and on eBay years after its original release in 1979. And not without reason -- The Toms rivals Black Vinyl Shoes, Heyman's Living Room!!, or Wanna Meet the Scruffs? as a near-perfect document of new wave-era power pop, with superb hooks, great upbeat melodies, gloriously jangly guitar figures, top-shelf self-executed harmonies, and energy to spare. From the moment "Let's Be Friends Again" bursts out of the speakers, anyone with a serious pop jones will be hooked, and the other 11 songs from the album's initial release are just as strong, especially "I Did the Wrong Thing," "The Door," "Other Boys Do," and "The Bear." The pop archivists at Not Lame Records gave this overlooked gem its CD debut in 1997, with seven more than worthy bonus tracks, but the 2005 reissue of their reissue is even better -- it includes a second disc of unissued material recorded in the years following the release of The Toms, and the good news is Tom Marolda still knows how to write a great pop song, and his studio skills have even improved with time (unlike most folks of his generation, Marolda not only isn't afraid of sampling and electronics, he has some fun ideas about what to do with them). Superb stuff that anyone with a taste for classic pop needs to pick up before this album goes away again.