Image: James Caswell
Oppressive social constructs such as masculinity, religious reckoning and feelings surrounding inadequacy are the conceptual threads that run through Cub Sports latest studio album LIKE NIRVANA. The fourth album from the Brisbane band is their most considered to date. It is sonically darker than their previous releases and explores a side the band haven’t shown before. The album is an exploration of self-discovery where in which lead singer Tim Nelson bares his soul.
It’s fitting that an album that explores love opens with the message “I’d love you, I’d die for you”. The warm sonic sounds in LIKE NIRVANA’s Intro sets the scene for the intimacy displayed in the tracks that follow. On the spoken words verses of Confessions, lead singer Tim Nelson offers a series of self truths. Lyrically the track is an emotional purge, and is paired with static synthesised sounds and racing drums that could find their place on an album by British band The 1975. The vulnerable emotional confessionals continue onto My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears). On the track, Nelson expertly exhibits the strength and power of his voice.
The spoken word verses in I Feel Like I Am Changin over the pulsating beat alongside Nelson’s pared back vocal performance is one of the albums greatest euphoric moments. The track makes reference to Nelson’s hometown of Brisbane “I used to hate these mismatched houses, now they make me smile”. I Feel Like I Am Changin is at times reminiscent of Lorde’s 400 Lux. Lyrically, the track is almost the antithesis to Lorde’s song, where she sings “I love these roads where the houses don’t change”.
The euphoria continues on tracks such as Drive, Be Your Man and Break Me Down. The first being a gentle love song for Nelson’s husband and Cub Sport keyboardist, Sam Netterfield, that feels like it belongs in Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours era, with Be Your Man written together by the couple. The latter has anthemic qualities and is a standout track on LIKE NIRVANA. Nelson’s vocal performance on the song is comparable to U2 frontman, Bono. Both Drive and Break Me Down reference Nelson at times questioning how he found such pure love and if he deserves it. Break Me Down features fellow Brisbane musician Mallrat, a melancholic seven minute track that utilises enchanting woodwinds.
The records longest track is followed by its shortest track, Nirvana. The song serves as an interlude and represents a shift in perspective, placing more value on self worth as opposed to others perceptions of you. This theme continues in Saint with a focus on masculinity and religious pressures within society, and familial relationships playing out over R&B beats and melodies.
18 is another documentation of Nelson and Netterfield’s love story, flashing back to the early days of their life together. Nelson’s beautiful and ethereal falsetto vocals take center stage, with the track tying together the themes of pure love and gratitude represented throughout the album. The retrospective view on the earlier days of their relationship is continued on Best Friend, which features a tempo increase that will get your heart racing with feelings of pure elation.
The delicate fingerpicked guitar on Be Your Angel when paired with Nelson’s falsetto vocals, create pure magic on the albums penultimate track. The song is about the purest form of love that is intense and passionate, and brings a sense of fulfilment. LIKE NIRVANA closes with Grand Canyon, an empowering song that incites encouragement and hope “The light is coming, it’s our turn, you’re a mountain baby, Grand Canyon, you hold all the power” Nelson sings. The track ends with a choir singing in hymn-like harmony, juxtaposing the spellbinding vocals throughout the song, creating a heavenly outro to the record.
The album is the bands most vulnerable musical venture, and utilises a warmer sonic palette to create pure moments that leave the listener in contemplation. The record is an emotional letter to ones self, exploring many facets of the human psyche. The band have pared back the synth-pop sounds they have built upon throughout their career, creating a quieter moment within their discography that is just as loud, if not louder, than the records predecessors. They have created a heavenly, ethereal record that is as stunning as it is confessional, that navigates the journey towards self-acceptance.
LIKE NIRVANA is out now!