In 2001 The Residents had begun to develop their follow-up album to Wormwood (1998). At the same time the group had become interested in the newly emerging medium of DVD and were well into preparation of Icky Flix as a showcase for their video work; consequently progress on the then unnamed Animal Lover was slow. But even as The Residents turned their DVD release into the Icky Flix tour (2001), questions persisted regarding the tone and nature of the new album: a not uncharacteristic difference in opinion existed over the direction of the piece, with some favoring an album based on the American Civil War, musically reflecting an undertone of Stephen Foster, while others favored a more absurdist approach, not unlike the previously successful Duck Stab. Consequently, a lack of clarity enveloped and paralyzed the project.
Meanwhile The Residents were in Europe touring Icky Flix when the unthinkable happened: masterminded by a fanatic living in a cave in Afghanistan, the World Trade Center was burned to the ground. Vulnerable and thousands of miles from home, the group considered ending the tour but ultimately decided to stick it out. While continuing to perform in Europe for two more weeks, The Residents used that time, propelled by their fragile emotional state, to develop a new series of songs, ultimately becoming the Demons Dance Alone album (2002).
In contrast to the undefined and dangling Animal Lover, Demons Dance Alone possessed an immediate and clear direction, but the earlier project was not abandoned. Carefully preserving their work for some undefined point in the future, The Residents archived the unfinished Animal Lover, then threw themselves into the recording of Demons Dance Alone, immediately following the album's release with a Demons' tour.
When that tour ended in 2003, the group was uncertain regarding its next project. An obvious path of least resistance led them back to Animal Lover but, while much compelling music had been recorded, a fresh approach was desperately needed. Still resonating from the Trade Center bombings and the ensuing war, two radical ideas emerged. The first concept confronted the album's obviously divergent musical direction while the other idea dealt with the undefined nature of its lyrics. Ultimately, the solution to reconciling the decidedly different arrangements was to cut them together like editing film, allowing the music to be seen from different sides. Then, reflecting a certain distance from a humanity floundering in a fit of self destruction, The Residents decided to write lyrics from the puzzled perspective of an Animal Kingdom baffled by the arrogance and stupidity of the planet's self anointed masters. At that point the album finally found its long illusive unity.
Animal Lover was finished in the summer of 2005 and released the following fall by Mute.