Album Review: Cub Sport – Like Nirvana

Editor's Review
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Australian alt-pop fourpiece Cub Sport release their fourth album, Like Nirvana, today. The album is highly anticipated amongst the band’s ever-growing fanbase and follows 2019’s Cub Sport which reached number 1 in the Australian album chart. 

The thirteen-track offering opens with Intro, a short scene setter for the rest of the album, where lead singer Tim Nelson declares “I love you, I love you, I’d die for you, I’d die for you” echoing over and over.

The first full-length track is Confessions, a gritty ode about all-consuming love and the refusal of conformity, featuring confessional lyrics such as “the truth is I don’t want to be one of the boys, the truth is living by a gender makes me feel annoyed.” The track bursts onto the scene in an explosion of soaring synths and gravelly bass and is an undoubted stand-out on the album as Nelson exhibits a new, raw edge to his vocal. The style is reminiscent of The Neighbourhood with the electronic elements and heavy bassline and was a spot-on choice as first single from the album, announcing the band’s return with a bang. 

The pace is taken down a notch on My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears) where Nelson showcases his exceptional vocal range, accompanied by gentle keys and a truly unique electronic distortion. 

Third single from the album I Feel Like I’m Changin’ is another mellow and stripped back offering. Nelson’s vocal is a gentle whisper at the start and there’s an almost angelic air to the track with the restrained harmonies and subtle electronic elements. Nelson explores his vocal range at the chorus where he lets some of the strength of his voice shine through. The second and third chorus combine Nelson’s vocal with that of keyboardist and vocalist Sam Netterfield, giving the track an added depth.  

Drive was the second single taken from Like Nirvana and opens with deep, brooding strings before Nelson’s soft, restrained vocal breaks through, a departure from the impactful vocal with soaring high notes that have become his signature. It gives the track an almost dreamlike quality. As we head into the chorus, we can hear Nelson’s vocal hit its stride as the beats are taken up a notch and the angelic harmonies elevate the track. The chorus of “And I still can’t believe that 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 pure and you can tell the lyrics were written straight from the heart. 

Be Your Man is a gorgeous love song where Nelson declares “What does it mean for me to be your man, baby I’m feeling weak, baby I can’t stand this feeling any more. How can I give you any more?” The lyrics are so heartfelt and the vocal so deep. This is followed by downtempo offering Break Me Down which features Australian singer and rapper Mallrat who the band previously collaborated with on Video in 2019. The guitars gently strum and the bassline beats like a heartbeat as Nelson explores the extreme side of vocal manipulation where his voice becomes almost indistinct from the synth. Nelson described the track as his “personal breakthrough” and it really is another standout that lingers long after it’s finished. 

Nirvana opens with a bubbling synth and has a slightly retro air but is over in all but 2 minutes compared to the 7 minute marathon of Break Me Down. We then move into Saint which has an achingly cool, urban feel with a heavy, addictive bassline. The vocals are skilfully layered giving the track multiple dimensions and the vocals switch between singing and rap and flow flawlessly together.  

18 is another bassy but mellow track but with an uber cool urban edge provided by the drum pads and heavy beat. Nelson’s vocal soars and takes on angelic qualities which juxtapose incredibly with the manipulated synth and mic. This may be my favourite track on the album as the sound is so unique and undoubtedly has Cub Sport’s stamp all over it, with Nelson’s vocals against the bassline being goosebump-inducing.  

Best Friend is addictively upbeat and in an unexpected turn is the band’s first foray into dance music. The synths sizzle as the beat picks up and increases faster and faster with echoes of “you showed me love” until they die down slowly and melodically. It’s an unexpected but novel stray from the path. 

Be Your Angel possesses strong Savage Garden vibes especially at the opening lines “I’ll be your angel, be your devil, be whatever you need” sung in Nelsons faultless falsetto. The plucky guitars lend the track a breezy summer vibe and the chorus is addictive right from the first listen. I can see this being played live acoustically with the whole audience singing the lyrics back.  

Final track Grand Canyon mirrors Intro in its simplicity and power and the two tracks book-end the album in a perfect and considered way. Atmospheric organ keys accompany Nelson’s soaring vocal and angelic harmonies sing the accompaniment. “You’re a mountain baby, Grand Canyon. You hold all the power if you believe it then you can” is such a strong message to end on, enveloping the listener and instilling feelings of self-worth and positivity. 

Like Nirvana feels like a giant leap away from the Cub Sport of This Is Our Vice (2016) and Bats (2017), not to say that they’ve lost what makes them them, only they’ve honed it further and carved out their own undoubted niche. Tim Nelson came out publicly as gay in 2017 and this album above all others has become the platform for Cub Sport to express their LGBTQ+ pride and spread the themes of self-love and acceptance. When Nelson harmonises with bandmate and partner Sam Netterfield their electrifying connection is unquestionable and you believe it when Nelson said “I’m prepared to reveal everything in these songs.” Like Nirvana is an exploration of Nelson’s journey from hiding his true self to finding acceptance and much longed-for freedom. “It’s liberating to be so open after spending most of my life hiding everything about who I am and what I’m feeling. It felt good to acknowledge my whole self on this album and to let out a lot of things that I had been holding on to.” If 2020 needs anything right now it’s Like Nirvana so we can transcend out of the fog and into the rays of the sun. 

Like Nirvana is available to stream now. Find out more about Cub Sport here and have a listen to the gorgeous Be Your Man below. 

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