Considering the recent run of albums I’ve been assigned here, I feel like I should party like its 1989. I haven’t thought much about Alice Donut since their late ‘80s, early ‘90s efforts on Alternative Tentacles, losing track of the group around the time the underground broke out and it became increasingly difficult to hear good music amid all of the noise from the major labels. Alice Donut kept plugging away, and celebrates its 20th birthday (one more and the band legally drink!) with Fuzz, a tripped-out mash up of musical styles all presented with a steady punk rock backbeat.
How tripped out? Well, the opening cut is called “Madonna’s Bombing Sarajevo”, the album ends with “The Puny and Revolting Men of Advertising Smile”, and the band hits plenty of oddball territory in between. After all, the first tune starts with five minutes of driving rock n’ roll before getting to a final bridge that is fueled by a trumpet solo and then ends with two minutes of a Nomeansno-style attack. Other songs take unexpected turns, as well. After building on an intense tune for several minutes, “Days Away (At the Wake of a Friend)” explodes into a beautiful, tuneful final bit.
In fact, Fuzz is far more varied than most acts would dare in this day and age, but that causes the music to spiral out of control. It always sounds like Alice Donut is making the music, even if the songs are wildly different. Much of that stems from the work of the backline, who provide an excellent backdrop for the songs. While loaded with pounding beats and, well, fuzzy basslines, it still gives the rest of the band plenty of space to fill in, from the ever changing guitars to the vocal howls.
And as noted by the earlier song titles, the band is still independent and still willing to tweak just about anything in modern life, from a conversation with a telemarketer (in “The Better Life”) to the almost ballad-like “Kick Again”, with its tale of a fascistic state that may or may not be the US.
While Fuzz does lose a bit of energy in the middle (12 tracks over nearly an hour can do that), Alice Donut remains focused throughout, making music that sticks in the mind and is challenging at the same time. And I imagine this music would kick ass live (the band celebrates 20 years of music in October with a gig at the Knitting Factory). Most of all, it shows that there doesn’t need to be an age limit on bands for making good music. It’s mainly about the players own drive to remain fresh. Alice Donut, even after two decades, is as fresh as the day they started playing music.