Alice, once dubbed "the lost Tom Waits masterpiece" by the press, was originally done as an avant-garde opera directed by Robert Wilson for Hamburg's Thalia Theater in the winter of 1992. "Alice" was based loosely on Lewis Carroll's obsession with young Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired his Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. Working with wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennan, they wrote fifteen songs for the Wilson opera in the summer of 1992. The Thalia performed "Alice" for eighteen months, with an eclectic orchestra of Waits' design. A devastatingly beautiful atmosphere made of sorrow and reverie, insanity and resignation, rises like a mist in Alice. It's a lyrical melancholia, a feeling that creeps in on the arms of Stroh violins and unabashed poetry. These are songs to fall into, and sometimes, to keep falling. There are fragile, haunted musings, and laments, mad ruminations, and tales of unrequited love and anthems from beyond the grave. "Alice," said Waits, "is adult songs for children, or children's songs for adults. It's a maelstrom or fever-dream, a tone poem, with torch songs and waltzes...an odyssey in dream logic and nonsense."
"In the songs, true love collides with callous fate and close observation dissolves into surrealism...the albums are as different as sleepwalking and chronic insomnia."Jon Pareles, NEW YORK TIMES