12 September 2010

Algebra Suicide: True Romance At The Worlds Fair

LydiaIt's one of those decisive musical moments. You pick up a record with scarred cover that you found hidden in the back of a large disused collection. It looks completely generic, uninteresting, bland. When you pull out the vinyl it's gouged and barely wants to sit still in the record player. Nervous vinyl. You cue up the first selection with no special anticipation. You've listened to thousands of records like this one, issued from bedrooms and garages all over the North American continent. It's 1982; everyone is doing it.

When the sound trickles out of the grey speakers, it is smeared with distortion and cut with scratches.

A whispered remark changed a girl's life.

How appropriate that first line, delivered clearly, with just a hint of sarcasm. The pithy remarks on the debut EP from Algebra Suicide might indeed change a girl's life. They changed my life, I am sure.

Make no mistake, there was a difference.
She had a war job and mother-in-law trouble,
A jitterbug wedding,
And an itch that started quick.

One day I was in a different library, this one filled with books instead of records. Wandering through the stacks I found a section dedicated to historical periodicals. There I discovered Woman's Day and similar magazines from the fifties. I scanned the intriguing advertisements and articles that spoke of post-war America. "Too many blondes spoil the crowd" advised one. "The invisible bones of the face" said another. My skin went all tingly, like it does when someone holds a very sharp knife millimetres away from incision.

After a few moments I realised why these phrases seemed to issue from inside me. Lydia Tomkiw had found them too, some rainy day in Chicago. She'd compiled them, assigned scansion and recited them at poetry slams, maybe at some little bar on Belmont St. Later, Don Hedeker set a Multivox rhythm box clattering and churned out muffled guitar chords as accompaniment. Algebra Suicide transferred these words to vinyl in a seminal moment, never to be repeated.

Sometimes four tracks is exactly the right amount. Sometimes seven words is all you need. It is debatable whether the group ever reached these heights of expression again, though certainly there were a lot of other words waiting in the wings. Lydia Tomkiw made it as far as Columbia Poetry Review and The Best American Poetry anthology (1988), but passed away in obscurity in 2007.

Chances are you have never heard True Romance At The Worlds Fair. The way the chords uncoil slowly at the beginning of "Recalling The Last Encounter". The way the band's name is dropped into the lyrics with only apparent ease. The desire to become hydraulic. The reason children look like copies of their parents. The cheerful irony.

So this is your lucky day. I do hope it's raining.

-- Second Chameleon

We have obtained and restored a rare version of this record with as much care as possible. Apologies for the inevitable pops and gurgles. They are all there for a reason.


Algebra Suicide: True Romance At The Worlds Fair

A01 True Romance At The Worlds Fair
A02 Recalling The Last Encounter
B01 Praxis
B02 In Bed With Boys

7" EP: Buzzerama [AA-500] 1982


  1. Wow! I remember hearing this on John Peel's radio show. Haven't heard it since.

  2. somewhere Lydia is smiling! thanks for such a nice write-up