"Are you ready for the next big thing?" sings 21-year-old Hannah Clark on Tyrant Song, the hardest and rockiest cut on this debut album. Grunge riffs power away behind her, and there’s no doubt about it: her question is wickedly rhetorical.
This debut is a polished pop gem that could elevate Clark into the mainstream. Her template is simple but effective: cribbing a delicious gloominess from Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails, and sugar-coating it with catchy choruses. One of the songs here, The Black Lodge, is named after a fictional setting in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks – and Clark tries to draw that Lynchian sense of uncertainty and unpredictability, of things lurking in the shadows, into her pop structures. The result is reminiscent of Howling Bells, and it’s no surprise to find out that Dan Grech-Marguerat, who produced the Australian band’s Radio Wars album of 2009, is behind the mixing desk for Bad Dream Hotline. His signature is all over it.
As well as Tyrant Song, Get Money and Genie in a Coke Can are the obvious radio hits-in-waiting, both edging close to glam rock as they stomp from the speakers, and both carrying a message. "Get money, die young, live fast, die young, get money, get numb, get numb, get numb," Clark sings on the former, apathy and anger filling her voice. On Genie in a Coke Can – note the sly nod to/dig at Christina Aguilera – a spoken, mocking middle-eight spouts: "I want all the men to salivate when they see me, I want, I want, I want…"
Morally at least, it’s a step up from Rihanna. But does she have the songs to emulate that pop siren’s success? Not yet: for every Get Money there’s a Jailhouse, a song that lacks the essential sparkle to make it remarkable. But as far as debuts go from 21-year-olds, this is hugely promising, and it would be no surprise at all if Foe found herself all over the radio by the end of 2012.