In early 2020, when we all felt cut off from friends and family, Sophie Hopes had recently finished recording an album’s worth of songs steeped in a more prolonged, pronounced version of that dislocation. Tired Lion’s frontwoman had moved from Perth to Brisbane following the band’s 2017 debut ‘Dumb Days’, and while the relocation brought her closer to her partner, Violent Soho’s Luke Boerdam, it meant leaving behind a lot of personal history – as well as her bandmates.
And so on second album ‘Breakfast for Pathetics’, Hopes becomes Tired Lion’s sole mainstay, playing lead and rhythm guitar, bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards throughout. If the energetic drumming of Violent Soho’s Michael Richards keeps it from being a true one-woman-band, Hopes pours herself into every aspect of this record. On ‘Dumb Days’, she forcibly exorcised her early 20s with the thesis-like refrain “disconnect my youth”. This record, on the other hand, feels like a revealing interior journey for the self-described “massive introvert”.
What hasn’t changed is the way Hopes fully embraces ’90s indie rock and grunge, leaning into its tangled guitars and quiet/loud kick to chronicle the gloriously messy feelings she observes in and around her. Produced by Boerdam, who also helmed Tired Lion’s debut, ‘Breakfast for Pathetics’ continues to flaunt Hopes’ easy way with bludgeoning guitar hooks and distortion-scarred choruses. Those ingredients may be all too familiar, but her acute emotional honesty and raw vocal earnestness refreshes their power in a big way.
The most immediate track is also the most deeply cutting: the explosive two-minute outburst ‘Lie to Me’, housing a procession of painfully relatable lyrics. “Tell me I’m pretty / Tell me I’m skinny / Tell me I’m winning,” sneers Hopes, followed with “Tell me I’m something / Tell me I’m nothing / Tell me I’m anything.” The verses, meanwhile, call out a “poser” and “fucking dick” whose outsized power over others’ self-worth has suddenly been nullified.
That might read as overly intense on paper, but Hopes has a knack for packing a real emotional punch without losing her cool. Her lyrics roll naturally along, accumulating power in repetition. Even on the more chiming and mellow send-off ‘~Cya Later~’, the unassuming line “The air smells so different this year” grows into a resonant image of overhauling one’s location (and life).
On the title track, named after the search for a new morning ritual, Hopes charts anxiety in the margins via bitten lips and chewed fingernails. And the caustic revelations of ‘Don’t Take Me Back’ are smuggled into singsong lines about losers and loners.
For all the wall-to-wall, shout-along catchiness on display here, the song that really completes Hopes’ emotional cleansing is the closing ‘Screw You, Man.’, a laid-bare ballad that tugs at the heartstrings with a humble keyboard line and guest Benn Chapman’s sweetly couched flugelhorn. “I can’t be what you need,” repeats Hopes, her delivery achy and quavering. It’s her most striking moment of personal resolution on the entire record – and she doesn’t even raise her voice.
- Release date: November 20
- Record label: Dew Process / Universal Music