Wednesday, 10 November 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 49: HOLE TO FEED/FRAGILE TENSION

 


When I first started this blog series I knew this day would come. I've had a go at Hole To Feed for some time now and it's become the blog's trademark to an extent. I'd rather that it was known for quality writing or insight but you take what you can get.

The third Depeche Mode double A side single wasthen Hole To Feed, the song with the honour of having the worst title in the band's history, and Fragile Tension, a song that people hate with a passion usually reserved for mass murderers or Boris Johnson, such was the fury that greeted the leak of the song prior to the release of Sounds Of The Universe.

With this release we got a now very pricey double 12", a CD single and a video that I'm afraid we are going to have to watch in a few minutes. Let's get stuck in then.

NOWHERE TO HIDE - HOLE TO FEED/FRAGILE TENSION

The Single


Hole To Feed/Fragile Tension, BONG42, was released on 7th December 2009. The official site announced the news  that thrilled us all a month before the release date by saying that the single would come out and that there would be no 7" or LCD. Bad news for collectors then.

The way the single was released meant that it would not be eligible for the UK charts so there were very few single reviews. Hole To Feed was written by Dave, Christian Eigner and Andrew Philpott of course, so that meant it grabbed the attention of a few reviewers when they listened to Sounds Of The Universe. Pitchfork seemed to like it:

"Hole to Feed, a Gahan composition, is busy yet spare, bounding along a sci-fi take on the Bo Diddley beat while Gahan (his troubled history public record) draws on double meanings and innuendo to project the band's trademark narcissistic portent."

The same review said of Fragile Tension:

"...hearkening back to the band's synthier days without losing the layer of grunge it's carefully cultivated post-Violator, a strategy also reflected by "Fragile Tension" (which wouldn't have been out of place on the generally noisier Angel)"

Of Hole To Feed, The Quietus said:

"This is minimal acid blues and concerns the singer's addictive nature, and its minimalism is emphasized by the use of old equipment and a prominent, primitive rock guitar."

The same review managed to describe Fragile Tension without saying if they liked the song:

"This song, like 'Jezebel', harks back to 'Lillian' from Playing The Angel and appears to be a bit of an eco-ballad or an elegy to the not-yet disappeared beauty of planet earth. However the melancholia of the synth and the sentiment aren't reflected in Gore's almost raucous guitar playing."

Generally speaking then, mainly positive.

As the song was not eligible for the UK charts, there are no positions to look at. The band naturally did bugger all to promote it either though it did reach number 27 in France. Even the boiling hot centre of Depeche Mode fandom, Germany, only sent it as high as number 39.

Here's the thing. As you may have gathered, I don't like Hole To Feed. It's not a good Depeche Mode song and it has a simply dreadful title. Think about it -  Hole. To. Feed. Who feeds a hole? What do you feed a hole? It's grim. That said, having just had to listen to Peace for the last blog, it almost feels as if Hole To Feed has some redeeming features. 

That's the headline then - "Not as bad as Peace."

The band dutifully stuck with the song throughout Tour Of The Universe and played it live 103 times in all. Unlike many of the other songs from the parent album, it was at least possible to play live, no matter how much of a mood killer it was after Wrong. It was last played at the gig at the Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf on 27th February 2010 and I imagine we won't hear it again. 

Fragile Tension first came to everyone's attention when a leak of a remix landed on the internet causing vast swathes of the Depeche Mode fanbase to start foaming at the mouth, outraged at this synthpop atrocity. Imagine getting that angry then hearing Sounds Of The Universe. I have always liked the song really, albeit that is perhaps in the context of what surrounds it on the album. It's a decent enough track, filled with Martin's then en vogue glittering soul bathed in light lyrics and I defy anyone to to listen to the harmonies on the last verse ("There's a dizzying feeling...") and not smile. 

As Fragile Tension was from Sounds Of The Universe, it was obviously not going to work live and duly didn't. It was only played live once on 24th July 2009 at the Molson Amphitheater in Toronto and hasn't been seen since.

The Videos




There was an article in the LA Times on on 30th September 2009 entitled "Eric Wareheim Directs New Depeche Mode Video, Some Fans Say It's The Worst Ever."  As headlines go, it's pretty descriptive although it doesn't say whether it's the worst Depeche Mode video ever or the worst vide ever full stop. The video makes a persuasive case for the latter option.

Eric Wareheim, for those who like me have no idea who he is, is an American comedian. Let's hope his comedy skills are superior to his video directing skills as this video is an absolute disaster. Remember I had a go at Peace for only showing the band via a Depeche Mode T-shirt and a poster? Well this one doesn't feature them at all in any shape whatsoever, at least as far as I could tell as my eyes were blurred with fury and tears when you all forced me to watch this.

We open innocently enough on a very snazzily dressed cover band who are miming along to Hole To Feed, looking as excited as you'd expect anyone would be miming along to that song. They have a dance routine to go along with the song too but that does nothing for the static, bored crowd. No amount of Hole To Feed jiving can distract them from the song. 

Hang on....the crowd have all turned around. What could be more interesting to watch than a futuristic dance routine performing Depeche Mode covers band?

(Brace yourselves)

It's two people licking each other's faces.

Two
People
Licking
Each
Other's
Faces

Now, up until this precise moment in Depeche's career we have had some odd stuff in videos, things you think that only people with a deep understanding of art and its many concepts get. We've had some terrible rubbish as well obviously but even Peace had a theme that you could link with the song it was attempting to represent. This is just two people licking each other's faces in a nightclub and it is both repugnant and, well, just crap.

Oh but that's not the end of it. Oh no.

The lickers keep licking, the crowd of perverts keep watching and the band keep playing. Does the licking force people to look away? No, quite the opposite. Another couple start to do it and then another, and then another and then they're all at it.

You are watching a room full of people licking each other's faces. In a Depeche Mode video. This is the band who had the Enjoy The Silence video. They had the Strangelove one. Christ, they even had the Master & Servant one - at least it was entertaining. They may have all been mucking around in chains but no-one was licking each other. WHO ON EARTH APPROVED THIS VIDEO AND WHY ARE THERE SO MANY TONGUES IN IT? 

It just keeps on going.

We leave the club and find that everyone outside the club in whatever hellscape this video is taking place in is at too. EVERYONE IS LICKING EVERYONE ELSE. STOP ALL OF THIS. WHY IS NO-ONE CALLING THE POLICE?

It's beyond grim by this point. You start to question the value of having a tongue as you certainly don't want yours involved in this sort of thing, The concept of a tongue becomes somehing incomprehensible as you watch tongue ricochet off face, tongue smack off cheek all while an actual Depeche Mode song is playing.

You know those dreadful Dave Gahan memes you see online where some deranged fan has put together three pictures of Dave and seems to post the picture on every DM related part of the internet with the words "GOOD MORNING TO EVERY DEPECHE FAN HERE IS THE ANGEL OF MY HEART DAVE. LOVE AND LOVE TO HIM AND ALAN AND MARTIN BUT NOT FLETCH. THEY ARE THE MASTERS AND I AM THEIR SERVANT"? That meme is better than this video.

After what feels like three full lifetimes, the music stops and, thank every God that features in every religion on earth and beyond, the tongues do too. It is over. 

Now, I've no concept of either art or the collected works of Eric Wareheim, but what the hell was that? The song isn't called Tongue To Face or Drool To Cheek so what on earth inspired the worst four minutes of ANY piece of footage that the words Depeche and Mode have ever been connected to? Did the band genuinely see this before it was released? Man alive.

Still, if there's one message we can take from Hole To Feed it's this: when the music stopped, all the bad things stopped too. No Hole To Feed, no grim tongue festival. Perhaps that was the point all along.



There was of course a video for Fragile Tension too. The sheer horror of the Hole To Feed video made me forget everything I know so thank you to Adam on the Depeche Mode Home Facebook page for reminding me of this.

The video actually features Depeche Mode which is a novel concept. Among the many pixels flying around in space we see Dave, Martin and Andy in their live poses - Dave sweaty and singing, Martin bobbing his head around holding a guitar and Fletch waving his arms. 

Nothing else happens really but nothing needs to. There are no tongues so it's the best video here and with the way I'm feeling after Hole To Feed, possibly the best Depeche Mode video there ever has been. More memory eraser than pallet cleanser. Thank you Fragile Tension.

The Formats


If you're still with me, it's time to move to Format Corner. It's a safe, tongue free space. There were only two official formats and one promo so we'll be quick about this and then we can put all of this nonsense behind us for ever.

There is an eight track promo CD, PCDBONG42.


It comes in a card sleeve.


The eight songs it conatins are the same ones as we will find on the official CD.


Here's CDBONG42. It comes in a jewel box and has a hole on the front to represent Fragile Tension. Ho, ho etc.


There's a colourful booklet and sleeve under the CD tray (that definitely has a name but I can't remember it) as well as a plainish CD.


I've just listened to the CD as I couldn't remember what any of the tracks sounded like. That was fun. What's on there is:
Fragile Tension (Radio Edit) - second best thing on here
Hole To Feed (Radio Edit) - third best thing here which says more about the remixes than anything else
Perfect (Roger Sanchez Club Mix) - standard club mix rubbish. A bland song remixed blandly
Come Back (Sixtoes Remix) - The best thing on here. It's different so it wins.
Fragile Tension (Laidback Luke Remix) - Rubbish
Hole To Feed (Popof Vocal Mix) - more piss off than Popof
Fragile Tension (Peter Bjorn & John Remix) - Remember Peter Bjorn & John? Smug whistling tune that was popular for about a week. Well they smugly ad their own vocals here in this shoddy nonsense. At least there's no whistling.
Hole To Feed (Joebot Remix) - just no


The 12", 12BONG42 is a double 12" and, the music on each record aside, it's a lovely thing with a clever trick on Side D. The front cover is above - the Hole To Feed side.


There's the other side. As you will see, Fragile Tension comes first there, despite there being a hole drawn on the cover.


Sides A and C are pictured above.


And there are Sides B and D, more of the latter shortly. There are a few remixes on here that aren't on the CD so I listened to them too. Each one of you owes me a drink. They are:

Side A
Fragile Tension (Stephan Bodzin Remix) - does nothing, goes nowhere
Fragile Tension (Kris Menace's Love On Laserdisc Remix) - starts off interestingly then quickly stops being interesting.

Side B
Hole To Feed (Popof Vocal Mix) - see above 
Hole To Feed (Paul Woolford's Easyfun Ethereal Disco Mix) - That ain't nodisco

Side C
Perfect (Roger Sanchez Club Mix) - club foot more like. See above
Perfect (Ralphi Rosario Dub) - worse than the Sanchez remix which is almost impressive.

Side D


Remember that there was no 12" for Peace? Well, Side D features two terrible remixes of that track (Herve's "Warehouse Frequencies" Remix and Sander Van Doorn Remix) but in an act of genius, the matrix of the record (the run out groove bit for people who rightly don't concern themselves with things like that) says 12BONG41 as the phot above barely illustrates. It's like a secret Peace 12". That sort of thing tickles me and, let's be honest, I deserve all the happiness I can get after that video.

If you want this 12", there are currently 15 versions on sale on Discogs starting at £65! Good lord.

As well as these releases, there were two UK download packs too. iBONG42 and LiBONG42 take all of the remixes above and add Perfect (Ralphi & Craig Club Mix), Fragile Tension (Solo Loves Panorama Remix) and Perfect (Ralphi & Jody Club Mix).  I imagine they are all dreadful.

The formats above aside, there were four CD-Rs in the UK and one in the US where the single didn't get an official release.


And with that, we get past Hole To Feed/Fragile Tension. It is more of a "let's get rid of all the Sounds Of The Universe remixes" than a single release but the 12" is a lovely thing and the nice touch of 12BONG41 appearing on Side D brings something nice to the party.

Musically, the whole package is mainly awful however and as for the video, I don't know. I never want to see that again.

We'd next here from Depeche Mode in 2011 when the newly remixed Personal Jesus would remind us all that remixes were better in the old days. We'll look at that, the last ever BONG, next time.

5 comments:

  1. Did Fragile Tension have an official video? I’ve seen a computer generated thing which I always assumed was official but the fact you haven’t mentioned it now makes me wonder. Or maybe you were just too traumatised by…tongues.

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  2. Finally it is done.
    Bonus points for the courage to listen to the tracks again.

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  3. Here we are ! And yes, it's "Not as bad as Peace." There are some interesting things her : the songs are not that bad (I like them both) and some remixes are good (Kris Menace's, Peter Bjorn & John). And Sixtoes. Why Martin didn't call him to produce "Delta Machine" since he wanted something bluesy. Anyway...There are just 7 singles left and I wanted to thank you again and again for your brillant and hilarious work. You deserve a good break after this.
    Rendal

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  4. Hole to feed: The worst single with the worst video. I can only assume this was a plot on behalf of Mr Gore to stop Mr Gahan ever writing another song again.

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  5. SOTU is my favorite 21st Century Mode album. It started off so well with Wrong, but then I think they made the mistake of doing a box set of the album from the get go. If I recall properly, I bought the CD like normal than got the rest of the box set through iTunes for like $20. The bsides and remixes on the box set were way better than anything they released for the album after that.

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