Yesterday it occurred to me that today marks the 10th anniversary of Complicated Animal. It’s a record I made in a series of bedrooms for the princely sum of zero dollars. It now serves as a weird time capsule of my mid-20s, filled with cigarettes, canvas shoes, and minimum wage jobs. That said, I’m still proud of it, so here are some random reflections:
Writing and recording took two years. I remember being stressed about the endless process and telling Aaron McLeod Dyste Bales that I felt like I was trying to finish Chinese Democracy. This reference meant something in the 2000s. I still like the fact that it’s a pretty heavy record; I recall describing it to people as a grunge-Motown album, and mixed and mastered it with that in mind. The records I was most influenced by at the time were Ready To Die, Musicology, Jailbreak, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The intent was to do for a punk record what I felt like those albums were doing for their genres. On the Prince tip, I purposely cut a phone message off the end of “Valley Forge Winter” so the album’s run-time would be 43 minutes like Purple Rain, which I figured was the ideal length. I'm not good at picking gateway songs, but these days I think "The Black Watch" might be the one - if you like that tune, you might find things to like about the rest of them.
The tracklist was set up with vinyl in mind, so the last song on side 1 would be "Galapagos." Complicated Animal features my worst composition (“Tara”) and my best composition (“Winged Victory”). My personal favorite is probably “Morning Up In Motown.” That was a different time for Detroit, and playing a show down there felt like gigging after the apocalypse. “Salem Mass” is not as good a Halloween song as “Skullduggery” from the first album, but it features my buddy, Mike McKeogh, and is based on actual events, so those are wins. One of the tracks has a backwards phone message left by my brother, Tom McCartan, while he was at EPCOT Center. We were in Flatfoot with Aaron at the time, and these songs mix in my mind with all the stuff we did with Jim Diamond for Wild Was Our Mercy. Tom’s bass and Aaron’s harp on “Fight For Tomorrow” still mesmerize me they’re so good.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was very depressed. All I wanted to do was destroy the world with my guitar, and I think the production bears that out. I wouldn’t recommend it for most people, but if you want to listen to a loud/fast panic attack, this album is the one. The opener, “Brothers Grim,” drops the F-bomb 11 times. I’m not much of a singer and the songs slip in and out of tune constantly, but I meant well, and I stand behind the lyrics, even the bleak ones. And they’re pretty bleak.
That’s about it, other than it now seems super-adorable that it was "released" on myspace. That was a long time ago. But Tom, Aaron, Mike, I love you guys and thank you for all of the support over the years. I’m glad we’re all together on that big, grungy mess. It’s been an honor and a privilege. -jz, 2018