The light has well and truly arrived in the form of Cub Sport’s incandescent fourth album.
In this category-confounding album, singer-songwriter-producer Tim Nelson dives deeply and unapologetically into their journey of self-discovery to deliver a glittering, reflective masterpiece.
Finding its footholds in radical vulnerability, LIKE NIRVANA sees a move away from the hopeful romanticism and dream-pop compositions the Brisbane quartet have become known for, and towards a deeper, more complex look at themes of sexuality, self-acceptance and love.
The first full-length track Confessions announces itself with an explosion of buzzing synths as Nelson lays bare truths about his elusive individuality. The distorted vocals and spoken-word verses are underscored with gravelly bass, slowly climbing towards a high that comes only after emotional liberation. The aesthetic is reminiscent of Blood Orange and Frank Ocean, and casts the holy atmosphere the album flows on from.
The pace mellows in both My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears) and I Feel Like I’m Changin’, both of which have an almost angelic quality. Nelson’s soaring falsetto is grounded by the raw, lyrical exploration of what it means to evolve, and taken to starry heights with the feather-light instrumentation.
Drive is a love song if ever there was one. Here, Nelson’s bandmate and husband Sam Netterfield serves as shining muse, while Nelson’s vocals depart from the signature high notes and towards a softer, more restrained sound. The track has a dreamlike quality, detailing the wonder and self-doubt that comes with all-consuming love. The chorus of “And I still can’t believe you give a damn about me. And I’m driving in our car. I’m looking over and you’re looking at me” is so heartfelt it hurts.
The album begins to shift with the inclusion of Be Your Man, which channels an 80s power ballad. Themes of love and identity are woven together, with Nelson questioning the role gender plays in their relationship. Set against Phil Collins-esque drums, this song is one of the album’s clear highlights.
Fellow Brisbanite Mallrat features in Break Me Down, a song that feels more like an incantation as it sprawls across seven awe-inspiring minutes. Nelson says the track was a “personal breakthrough”, and it shows. His processed vocals, accented with gentle woodwind instrumentals, are as haunting as they are simple. It is as if he’s singing himself into being. And on Nirvana this newfound identity is cemented with the lyrics “I’m flying now, I don’t wanna come back down but probably gonna. When I do, I know that you will be there for me arms wide open.”
More autobiographical details make their way in on 18 and Saint, which explore the beginnings of Nelson’s relationship, and its darker, scarier moments. Both songs have a sense of urgency about them, but stay in the territory of a lovers dreamscape with smooth synths.
Towards the album’s close, pop lovers are gifted with the upbeat, gloriously eighties Best Friend, whose riff seems to follow the narrative of Nelson’s relationship. Like a heartbeat, the song thumps towards a giddy crescendo, then matures gently to a more stable, warm tempo. It is a journey in and of itself, and feels like a microcosm for the album’s creative genius.
At its heart, LIKE NIRVANA is a staggering showcase of Cub Sports versatility and vulnerability. It is like walking through the Church of Queer Love wrapped in a velvety synth-soul shawl. In his sweeping openness about gender, sexuality and self-love, Nelson has delivered a ceremony that speaks straight to the minds and hearts of Australia today.
LIKE NIRVANA, is out now via Cub Sport Records and Believe. Grab a copy of the record here.