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.

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~ by Michael on August 17, 2007.

21 Responses to “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me”

  1. This is why I keep coming back, C-13. You manage to take what, for me, is easily one of the lowest Pearl Jam moments and write about it with as much vigor, energy, and passion as you have for some of the band’s best tunes.

    That said, I have to say that, unlike yourself, I find it extremely easy to separate “Stupidmop” from the rest of the rest of the album that preceeds it. For me, Vitalogy ends, as I believe it righfully should, with “Immortality.” I’m always disappointed to know that in reality, a grotesquely long and laborous final track lies after what should have been the album’s real, heart-breaking conclusion. Oh well.

    I can certainly appreciate what you said though in reference to the song being an impetus for creative and sonic freedom for this band. And I would be remissed if I didn’t acknowledge, as you already did, that this was our introduction to Jack Irons as official Pearl Jam drummer. I know that many have an affinity for Dave A. and that Matt Cameron is probably one of the best rock drummers period. But I’ll still take Jack any day. While his role as band savior has been noted many times before, what goes unsaid is how well, I believe, he complimented the music of Pearl Jam. Listening to bootlegs from 95 and 96, I often lose myself completely in the Irons’ groove. So if this song is where he got his official start with the band (not counting his role in their formation), then I can accept that. Oh boy. I’ve rambled on for far too long.

  2. A “challenging listen” alright. It’s definitely something that no one would put on a party mixtape. It is one of the tracks that is a Pearl Jam fan divider. One group, including NoCoder, feeling that it ruins one of the great rock albums of all time. The second group feeling that Pearl Jam thought enough of their fans to challenge them in an unexpected way.

    I guess I am a member of the group who feels privledged. I don’t listen to STUPID MOP every time that I play Vitalogy. It is very long and requires concentration. A casual listen is impossible. But it is a fascinating listen in the dark with headphones. I’ve known it so long now that it has become, for me, a part of the fabric of the complete Vitalogy exerience.

    There are also the issues that are raised by the inclusion of such a track. The exposure to a mind that has fallen off of the edge of sanity, and the collage of accompanying sounds give us some indication of the level of crisis present within the band at this juncture. No,I don’t think that anyone in Pearl Jam was really in danger of losing his sanity or committing suicide, but I think that the band was in danger of self-destructing, and Eddie Vedder, in particular, was on an emotional precipice. Listening to STUPID MOP can heighten the intensity of the entire experience for me. Especially after listening to the heart-breaking IMMORTALITY with the “trapdoor in the sun” imagery.

  3. Off Topic:
    Have you heard HARD SUN?

  4. No! What’s that?

  5. HARD SUN is the single from Eddie’s solo album, the Into the Wild Soundtrack.

    You can hear it on the official site:

    http://www.intothewild.com/

    Launch the player. I think that we all would be very interested in your thoughts.

  6. Hard Sun’s the first single from Ed’s new soundtrack record, Into the Wild. It be awesome. Link? Yes sir!
    [audio src="http://www.intothewild.com/itw_music/itw_song_7.mp3" /]

  7. Wow. Synchronicity! 🙂

  8. Short story after one listen: it’s great! Reminds me of traditional Irish music for some reason. Definitely sounds different than I think it would have had the rest of the band been involved. Corin Tucker’s harmonies are great! Thanks for the head’s up. Just pre-ordered the sucker. Won’t be long now!

  9. Listen to the two songs being looped on the official ‘Into the Wild’ website. Amazing.

  10. i still remember the moment, standing up, crossing the room, pressing stop…making foxymop stop…just stop…taking the headphones off with a pained look…stunned. it remains the only time i ever stopped a pj “song” during the first listen. it just…scared me, i think…i hated it. i’ve listed to it since, of course…i don’t think of it as a song, really…i wonder why it wasn’t a hidden track, coming much later after immortality and not listed…not that it matters now…the whole thing is just really f’d up, that’s all i know.
    thanks for the link to the ed song…i think i’m going to resist temptation and wait for the album. i’m worried that it might not be released here…i’m not sure if the movie is being released here…it might come later…but i’ll wait. i read the book about ten years ago, feeling like it was about me…ten years on, ten pounds heavier, wife, dog, minivan, baby on the way…long way from the wild. i’m scared of ed’s songs, again.

  11. oleyever, the song in the link has been released as a single, and it isn’t similar to the other songs, so you might at well have a listen.

    BYM, I think that I like the humming song better than HARD SUN.

    I like the idea of being scared by the possiblity of Ed songs. We seem to be in uncharted territory with Ed here. It’s kind of exciting. Someone told me that Ed once said that he had written 300 songs by the time that he joined Bad Radio in 1987. That was 20 years ago. There might be some really scary stuff somewhere in the Ed vault.

  12. “Hard Sun” is actually a cover. I can’t remember who wrote it though. I looked it up, then forgot.

    I also wondered what would have happened had “Stupidmop” been a hidden track, what that would have done to people’s opinions of it. That was originally a large part of what I planned to write out. Then it vanished from my brain!

  13. HARD SUN was written by Gordon Peterson, who was also known as Indio. It’s from Indio’s only album Big Harvest.

    I’ve thought about the hidden track idea for STUPID MOP, too. It might have made a differenc in people’s perceptions of the album. They wouldn’t have been expecting a real song in the traditional sense if it had been a hidden track, so there wouldn’t have been as much outrage. In the end, it’s still at the end of the album, so it’s easy to turn it off.

  14. Yeah, it should of been a hidden track for those reasons alone. Plus that would of cemeneted ‘Immortality’ as an album closer which I never think of it as.

  15. It’s creepy, all right, and I haven’t listened to it in about ten years or so, but man, it reminds me of “F**k Frankie” by Marilyn Manson, and the fact that any Pearl Jam song reminds me of anything by M.Manson… yeesh.

    Gotta go listen to it again at home tonight.

  16. Personally I find this track to be reminiscent of Hamburger Lady by Throbbing Gristle which also uses vocal samples overlaid with discordant music to achieve a unsettling effect (HL is about a severe burns victim). I have no problem with this track at all and have listened to it many times, it is a piece of music that reveals different parts of itself on each listen and that draws me in, yes it is dark and unsettling and no, it isn’t an easy listen – but it provokes an emotional response and that is important. However I can indeed see why it would not appeal as it is so different from the rest of PJs output, guess I have a taste for this kind of music being into Skinny Puppy and the like as well 🙂

  17. Question: why was the name changed from the book into the CD release, on the book it has this name but on the cd it just says Stupid mop, what do you think is the meaning of this?.

  18. it was a song that almost reminded me of some avant garde and industrial…so i can understand where the manson, skinny puppy, throbbing gristle comparisons come from [not that i consider manson industrial, nonetheless though]. i also happen to be a huge fan of all that kind of stuff so i appreciated this song. it was creepy but nothing industrial fans arent used to.

  19. This song is the resaon I don’t listen to Immortality.

  20. This has been my favorite PJ album for many years, and I am surprised to learn that so many people apparently loathe “Stupidmop” so intensely. I think it completes the album perfectly (in a way it wouldn’t were it a hidden track, as those are given a relative pass and not generally considered part of an album proper).

    Listen to the album in a dark room, no distractions – let it engulf you. Vitalogy is precisely gritty, intellectually heavy, sincere. It is violence, mystery, abuse, secrets, and the loss of hope. It is ugliness presented with beauty, a drama to which a resolved, somewhat resigned, relatively calm end could be disappointing. Even if “Immortality” actually refers to one’s actions continuing to affect the world after one’s death, the issue of living on is then left hanging in the air.

    “Stupidmop” is the fittingly dark conclusion to living through all these topics: You or your effect may have survived, but things will never be the same. Stability and open possibilities are gone. The final track’s inclusion takes this album from being a good novel to being one that goes on my favorite shelf. Accessible? Perhaps not. Brilliant? I say yes.

    A bonus: If you’re not into dark rooms, try listening to the album while (or interspersed with) reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What a pair.

  21. Reblogged this on Das Karne.

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