In turn-of-the’80s Chicago, Trouble Boys guitarist Don Hedeker and the accomplished poet Lydia Tomkiw forged a romantic and creative partnership when they married and formed the band Algebra Suicide. They announced their existence to the world in 1982 with the 4-song 7” E.P. True Romance at the World’s Fair, and the title song earned the honor of inclusion on Trouser Press’ Best of the American Underground compilation the following year. The E.P. set the formula for the band’s entire 12-year career: Hedeker would play dreamy, unchanging guitar lines (I wonder if Lungfish were fans) over a simple drum machine pattern while the admirably advanced wordsmith Tomkiw cooly and astutely riffed on romance, culture, alienation, and death, delivering her recitations in tones that could have approached the snideness of the Waitresses’ Patty Donahue were Tomkiw’s delivery not so immaculately dry.
The band’s live performances were minimal but memorable. Taking a cue from the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, they dressed all in white and played side-by-side in front of a screen, immersed in projected art. The time I saw them, Hedeker was even playing a clear lucite guitar, allowing just that much more of the projected material to engulf him. Frustratingly, I’m unable to locate any motion footage of the band performing in that manner. Can you just trust me that it was freakin’ cool?
The band released several EPs and cassettes between 1982 and 1987, when RRR Records released the LP/CD The Secret Like Crazy. It was a best-of, but new fans could be forgiven for thinking it was their debut album, and it serves as a singular and definitive statement of the band’s most vital period. But though it’s essential, it’s out of print. Fortunately, Dark Entries came to the rescue of the fans and the curious in 2013 by releasing Feminine Squared, a compilation whose content overlaps Secret’s by enough to forego the crate-dig, and it’s bundled with a live DVD of excellent quality.
A 1992 European tour for the album Swoon produced tensions that ended Tomkiw and Hedeker’s marriage, but the band continued until the 1994 release of Tongue Wrestling. Tomkiw released a solo album, Incorporated in 1995, enlisting musical assists from smartass Midwestern art punks Sosumi, Pigface’s Martin Bowes, and Legendary Pink Dot Edward Ka-Spell, but that was her last musical release. She continued to publish poetry until her death in 2007.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Stream ‘World of Rubber’ by ‘80s electronic post-punks Second Layer, featuring members of The Sound