Breakfast For Pathetics
Dew Process/Universal Music
In 2017, the album Dumb Days catapulted WA favourites Tired Lion to national attention. Since then, their leader Sophie Hopes has left her bandmates in Perth and moved across the country to Brisbane. It wasn’t without reason (she moved there to be closer to her partner, Violent Soho’s Luke Boerdam) but it was a bold decision, nonetheless.
The follow-up to Dumb Days, then, feels like a crowning achievement. This release is just as much for Hopes as it is for her audience. As the sole survivor, she virtually does it all on Breakfast For Pathetics (presumably a wry nod to Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions), playing lead and rhythm guitar, bass, acoustic guitar, and keys. Although Boerdam’s bandmate Michael Richards is also on hand to provide some thrashing drum accompaniment, this truly belongs to Hopes.
In this way, the success of this album is as much about context as actual execution. Nothing much has really changed from Dumb Days except the extra heaving weight upon Hopes’ shoulders. The quiet and loud thudding rhythm remains the same; the vocals are still shouted with enough attitude to sustain an angsty high school film; the tacit understanding of 90s alternative rock is still as strong.
Given all that’s happened, Breakfast For Pathetics is unsurprisingly a personal record. From the moment Hopes first unleashes a piercing scream at the start of Diet Sick; there is no easing into proceedings. Amidst the huge guitar riffs and aggressive distortion are narratives of raw and searing honesty. On Lie To Me, she pleads, “Tell me I’m pretty/ Tell me I’m skinny/ Tell me I’m winning.” Don’t Take Me Back sees her snarl with disdain about “losers” and “loners,” sounding very much like someone who’s seen it and done it in the music industry.
Waterbed may open with gentle whistling but it doesn’t last long before the power chords push their way in. -Cya Later- then contains the mellowness that marked some of the finest 90s alternative tunes, Hopes sounding hopeful. Her vocals are to be marvelled at throughout. She is a true rock singer, her heft and ferocity carrying tracks like Actuality and Drama Club to the finishing line.
Screw You, Man is a contrasting closer, a quiet moment to wind down after the relentless and vociferous energy that preceded it. It’s a gentle ballad, her voice cracking and wilting under the emotion. “I can’t be what you need,” she contends in a moment of revelation. It’s acknowledgment that her personal journey isn’t yet over; it may only be at its start.
Breakfast For Pathetics is confirmation that Hopes can thrive on her own; and this Lion isn’t Tired just yet. Channeling the spirit of the likes of Courtney Love and Kim Deal decades later, she keeps the dream of the 90s as alive in Brisbane as she did in Perth.