Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me
I can’t think of “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me” without envisioning Vitalogy‘s packaging, the classy gold foil lettering on the back of one of rock music’s all-time greatest liner note presentations. Both on vinyl and CD, the title stands out (it’s labelled “Stupidmop” on the cassette version, I’ve been told), looking like a Red Hot Chili Peppers inspired funk-jam, or southern sass-rock a la Black Crowes. But oh dear god is it not remotely either of those. Instead, it’s a noise-collage, it’s Jack Irons’s debut, and most Pearl Jam fans could probably count the times they’ve listened to it all the way through on one hand. That’s too bad, because although it certainly isn’t an easy listen, I find the piece inseparable from Vitalogy. Its darkness seeps out and spreads retrograde throughout the album. Even if one never listens to it, its ominous presence lurks at the end of the record, daring you to experience it just one more time, will you or no.
“Stupidmop” is hands down the most challenging listen in the Pearl Jam catalog, it’s creepy, abrasive, and it’s so full of different sounds and noises that it can become confusing. Where does the listener “lock in”, what’s the primary thread to follow that is comparable to a vocal line, or rhythm guitar. Of course, there isn’t one. The closest element of “Stupidmop” to hold onto are the vocal samples, and they ain’t easy to hear either. The song requires a different kind of listening, a sound experience completely different from traditional song dynamics. In comparison to a wide variety of different musics (Wolf Eyes, Maryanne Amacher, even the Books), it’s actually not that bizarre or difficult. But with any artist there’s a basic standard established, a basic understanding between musician and listener about what the possibilities are or aren’t. “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me” smashed that understanding for mainstream rock audiences in 1994, more than “Bugs”, more than “Pry, To”, and way more than “Aye Davanita.” It doesn’t make one more or less of a fan of either Pearl Jam in particular, or music in general, to love or hate “Stupidmop”, same as any of their songs, though it does seem to draw mostly ire, if not outright loathing. But what it represents as far as possibilities of sound, freedom to experiment, etc., was and is huge.