It’s always nice to know that you weren’t the only kid who was a bit, you know, weird. If the press stories are to be believed, Hannah Clark spent much of her childhood as a named witch amongst fellow classmates and experienced frequent night terrors involving (understandably) oompa loompas. Clark’s musical outlet that goes under the name of FOE offers a dark, melodious plunge into the realms of hungry wolves, death personified and a hellish version of musical chairs in the debut album Bad Dream Hotline released in January last year. At any rate, this record certainly makes her back-story sound more convincing.
The first track, ‘Ballad for the Brainkeepers’, opens like a funeral dirge with lyrics that hint of Clark’s personal contempt for the mainstream music industry – ‘Don’t judge me by my waist line, judge me by my obscene dreams’ – before disintegrating into a cataclysm of grungy bass lines, seedy keyboards and thrashing drums. Throughout the album this cynical outlook becomes evermore clear; her derision of mainstream, manufactured pop-stardom is cunningly embodied by ‘Genie in a coke can’, an underhand reference to Christina Aguilera that mimics the musical genre of ‘pop star trash’ for ultimate, disparaging effect.
Other highlights include the evocative ‘The Black Lodge’, the final single release of the album that depicts a tainted fairytale world through the artist’s magnetic vocals that are encroached upon by layers of deliciously raunchy guitars riffs and a catchy, syncopated beat. Be sure to seek out the track’s B-side, a simple song that features Clark singing in tones of faux-innocence about violence, Mary Shelley and Frankenstein in a lullaby of naivety and violence. ‘Frankenstein’ is also a much needed release from the album’s hectic arrangements that become almost over-whelmingly claustrophobic and are only rescued by the record’s short, 40-minute duration.
Bad Dream Hotline is a dark, chaotic homage to rage-filled punk and angst-ridden grunge infused with mocking trashy pop elements and Clark’s disconnected voice that speaks for the modern generation of the disenchanted. The result is a wholly refreshing and a thoroughly promising debut.