ALBUM REVIEW: Cub Sport – ‘Like Nirvana’

Words by Kate Lockyer – {Kate Lockyer Music}

Brisbane band Cub Sport’s latest album, ‘Like Nirvana’ was released on Friday (July 24), and it’s one of the most stirring – and vulnerable – albums I’ve heard all year. Cub Sport is embracing their individuality in the most authentic way they can, and the result is an album that cuts right to the heart. Equal parts light and dark, joyous and troubled, tumultuous and serene, ‘Like Nirvana’ teases out the many-faceted experiences of the band and of frontman, Tim Nelson. Multi-instrumentalists Zoe Davis, Sam Netterfield, and Dan Puusaari play alongside Nelson to complete the group.

Recently Cub Sport has turned to face the world with a new and sincere candour, allowing their music to morph into a sound that is freer and more unique. All of the elements that make up the band’s characteristic sound are still there, but the songwriting is rawer than ever. Nelson, the songwriter for the group, says “It felt so good to acknowledge my whole self on this album, and to let out a lot of things that I had been holding on to.” Since coming out as gay publicly in 2017 and choosing to use both neutral and male pronouns as they move beyond the gender binary, they have been able to live, and express themselves, more openly. Their 2019 album, titled ‘Cub Sport’, began to peel back the layers of their artistry and identity, but this album bares all, revealing what is at Nelson’s core, even as this identity shapeshifts and is rediscovered still.


  1. Intro
  2. Confessions
  3. My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears)
  4. I Feel Like I Am Changin’
  5. Drive
  6. Be Your Man
  7. Break Me Down (with Mallrat)
  8. Nirvana
  9. Saint
  10. 18
  11. Best Friend
  12. Be Your Angel
  13. Grand Canyon

The haunting keyboard chords in the Intro and soft resonance of Nelson’s voice are an enchanting beginning to the album. Whispered promises introduce the themes of love and devotion, themes that continue throughout the album. The next track, Confessions, gives us just that – intimate confessions about anxieties, love, and identity. Soft crackling creates fuzzy edges on Nelson’s vocals, and the rawness of this is matched only by the lyrics. ”The truth is I kinda love my life as a reckless sinner / The truth is I look unbelievable but I hate my body”.

Continuing the unwavering lyrical honesty, My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears) asks for your trust, then puts complete faith in it. Nelson begins with the isolation of their childhood, and then offers up their vulnerabilities, come what may. Their voice is that of someone breathless with the apprehension of rejection and judgement, but telling their truth anyway. The line “Oh my dear, are you sure you can handle all my tears?” stands out for its raw vocal intensity, where Nelson’s voice shines. The bronze timbre of the instrumental solo at the end of the song finishes it in a way that Nelson’s words could not.

I Feel Like I Am Changin’ is a dreamy track filled with breathy, interlocking vocals and instrumental floating above it. “The sunset above these hills makes me feel like I’m high” paints a lovely palette for this song, written about changing your own colours. The layered vocals from the first verse and the overlapping vocal lines of the chorus create a fluid soundscape, almost like each phrase is a drop of water rippling over the next.

Drive sounds like it is straight out of a 2000s indie movie. The soft, nostalgic guitar and tender lyrics speak of an optimistic young love. “And I still can’t believe you give a damn about me / And I’m driving in your car, I’m looking over and you’re looking at me”. The chorus puts me right in the moment.

Be Your Man is a slow untangling of questions as Nelson reflects how they fit into their relationship. Moody synth begins the track, and Nelson explores a darker side of themselves as their relationship tethers them to the light. He sings: “There’s this darkness that I hide underneath / You’re the one that sees it, you tell me it’s alright”. Percussion kicks in just before the chorus, which is as compelling as it is catchy. Uncertainty fights against affection in the lyrics. “What does it mean, to be your man? / I’m feeling weak, baby I can’t stand this feeling anymore”.

Break Me Down features Mallrat, a fantastic addition that marks their second collab with fellow Brisbane artist Grace Shaw. The seven-minute long track experiments with harmony, and the meld of vocals – both Mallrat’s and Nelson’s – with the warmth of the synth creates a shimmering tone that envelops the whole song. Trills and scales from the synth that hit a sweet spot in the harmony are a highlight. Again, the lyrics expose a complete honesty, and an all-consuming devotion – “Wish I could dig deeper give you more of me / Come on baby break me down / Til I tell you I’ve been found”. This track also treats us to the gorgeous tone of Nelson’s lower range.

The album title caught my attention straight away, and images of what Nirvana represents  swirled around my head. Youth and freedom were the themes that came to mind, and these come through in the album, especially the track Like Nirvana. The lines of this song are delivered like a mantra, like a prayer, for all of the things that Nelson wants to come true. “Free my body from my mind / Leave the painful past behind / Live like this live like Nirvana / Breathe you in like marijuana”. This spiritual motif is continued in the next song, Saint, but this time there is again a battle between light and shade, with Nelson confessing “I’m trying to figure what that darkness means when it’s in your eyes / I don’t wanna be dramatic but it’s like one look and I could die”. The lyrics of the chorus overlap, one line starting halfway through the last, evoking the tidal waves that the song mentions, perhaps echoing the conflict between the dark thoughts and the voice that promises redemption. Nelson not only sings about all of the struggles they have faced but their determination to save themselves, and “save the world too”.

18 plays off the final chords of the previous song, with the intro slipping into a gentle synth harmony. 18 harks back to the vitality and extremes of teenage love: “If this right here is all we ever have / I’d die happy even if the music’s sad / Cause you’re the best I ever had” The electronic percussion and background vocals in the chorus also conjure a youthful mood. Nelson’s ethereal falsetto, sliding down descending scales off the back of “free” in the chorus gives me chills.

Best Friend is the song I connected to most when I first listened to the album. It has all the drama of youth: dreams, friendship and love. The urgency of Nelson’s emotion is reflected in the tempo changes, accelerating towards the chorus and slowing as they find their answer. The upbeat section of the song stood out to me the most: “I call you up the second that I leave / So I can whisper the things that I want to scream”.

The spirituality from earlier in the album is again present in the final tracks, Be Your Angel and Grand Canyon. Both are glittering songs of acceptance and love.The fingerpicked guitar riff in Be Your Angel brings a brightness to the timbre, while the lyrics embrace both the dark and the light – or as Nelson puts it – “I’ll be your angel, be your devil”. Grand Canyon is another song born of love – a paean to hope. It is an uplifting, almost hymnal finish to the album, by the end building to a whole chorus of voices singing “You’re a mountain, baby, grand canyon / Too much of an angel to be held down in battle”.

Over the last two albums, Cub Sport seems to have become untethered by ideas of what it should be to become what it is. ‘Like Nirvana’ is filled to the brim with pulsating synths, otherworldly vocals, and a generosity of truth and emotion.

Purchase/Stream ‘Like Nirvana’ HERE

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With thanks to Bossy Music

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