Emerging from the New York underground in 1986 Alice Donut originally chose the name Alice Donut Liver Henry Moore, a play on words of the Scorsese movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. On giving it to a gig promoter they were told that the name was too big for a poster and they were going to be Alice Donut. The name stuck and it kept on sticking like a particularly sticky donut for over 25 years. This DVD is a document of that story and a pretty exhaustive one too running at over 90 minutes gathering every one who played in the band and was associated with them together and talking about their memories, naturally with plenty of archive footage.
My memories of the band are a little hazy although watching this there were a couple of songs that I instantly remembered such as (oh and let’s give it it’s full title) The Son Of A Disgruntled X-Postal Worker Reflects On His Life While Getting Stoned In The Parking Lot Of A Winn Dixie Listening To Metallica”. Also I saw them at Reading Festival (when it was good) this was in 1993 and as the band say in the documentary they were amazed to find themselves playing in front of 40,000 people and even more surprised to be playing above some of their peers such as The Jesus Lizard and Primus. They were not as amazed as we were at the show which featured a bloke dressed as a woman cavorting around the stage like a loon. Thankfully that is all explained here and the person was a friend of theirs called Chet who they got to do all sorts of things on tour and added to their already lunatic multi coloured show. I also caught them at a smaller venue too possibly the Boston Arms but cannot remember that or find out when and exactly where that was.
Their story is an interesting one and despite the normal situation of fall outs and band members leaving this is a group whose ex members seemed unable to completely extricate themselves from things and often ended up rejoining at some point. Indeed even though the band broke fully in 96 they reformed in 2001. The big break came when they caught the attention of Jello Biafra who went and saw them live in a hastily arranged show in a loft. This began a marriage of the band to his Alternative Tentacles label which lasted for years to come.
Musically they were difficult to describe. Jello said they were the link between Butthole Surfers and REM. They certainly had an off kilter madcap fringe element about them. They were not overly provocative but were certainly out there. Husker Du are mentioned a lot on the doc and that whole USA art rock scene which led up to the emergence of grunge and Nirvana was something they were very active within. I guess psyche alt punk would kind of sum them up but there were plenty of rock elements and you never knew exactly what you were going to get from the band. One thing that they do say in detail is the difference in the way they were received at home and abroad. InAmericathey could travel for hours and play in front of a handful but inEuropethey were much bigger, the drives were shorter and the food, beer, hospitality and crowds were much better. They could arrange a tour today and pack venues out they say. I am not disagreeing with that and if proof were needed apparently when originally released this DVD with a special extra CD version this sold out within four hours.
Obviously the band are no spring chickens, most of them have kids and Sissi Schulmeister and Tomas Antona from the band have been married for some time. Not everyone has quite grown up, drummer Stephen Moses ruefully says he has no kids and would love to tour more and works in a wine shop, whether that last part is true or not I’m not sure, there’s a mischievous glint in his eye when he says it. What strikes me though is just how un-punk the band actually are. If you are looking for tales of past excesses with booze and drugs and stories of legendary acid consumption (something must explain their stage shows) you will not find it here at all. Perhaps it was not them and they were normal but it was us that were not but again, what about the crazy art work conceived by singer Tomas too? The band obviously do not tour much at all now and just manage the odd date but they are still recording even if last album (their tenth) Ten Glorious Animals came out in 2009.
Extras offer another 3/4 hour of material and include some deleted scenes from the documentary which add more to the overall picture. The Rider section is particularly amusing; France is the place to get your requests honoured but one place in the USA actually provided them the anti gravity chamber they had asked for! Finally there is some live archive footage of complete songs.
The only thing more I could have asked for would have been some songs on video as their clips were from memory quite mad but then again there are a few of them on the group’s website so what the hey! So all in all this is a case of everything you wanted to know, maybe a few things that you didn’t too. Can’t fault this at all and if you are a donut freak its well worth delving into.
(7/10 Pete Woods)