The Oxford Dictionary defines Nirvana as a ‘transcendent state in which there is neither suffering nor desire’, and, following their public release that they identify as ‘free’, beyond any binary gender norms, Cub Sport’s lead singer Tim Nelson appears to have reached the promised land. It’s hard to believe that this is the Brisbane four-piece’s fourth album already, however, the progression of the band has been something of a beautifully imperfect and increasingly complex transition.
Whilst 2017’s BATS and 2019’s Cub Sport majorly explored the angelic, positive reflections following Nelson’s coming out, LIKE NIRVANA is the black sheep of the family, exploring the ugly truths and trauma one must endure spending so much of their life in hiding.
Whilst it perhaps doesn’t have the most positive connotations and ‘feel good’ lyrics in contrast to some of their prior work, there’s nothing wrong with being different. Nelson’s exposing of raw emotions has allowed them to create something that made himself feel good, resulting in perhaps their most experimental music as a band yet.
The album is a constant breath of fresh air with every rising falsetto, from Nelson and the listener feeling as though they are exposing their flaws in unison, celebrating their wins as they overcome their challenges. Topics are wide and varied, acknowledging feelings of inadequacy blended with the oppression that can occur through societal norms and the structure of masculinity. If that wasn’t enough, tracks such as Be Your Angel analogise to what on earth it means to be someone’s guardian and whether someone can actually play God, or is the person enjoying the comforts of care who controls the strings. Dare I say it, but the eloquent, dreamlike structure is reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s 2016 masterpiece Blonde with the emotional expression drawing the listener in, whilst the experimental, abstract backing instruments keep the listener guessing. Confessions, the opening track is fast paced, with a heavy drum line mixed alongside an almost ASMR style delivery and crackling synths. It’s different, unexpected and creates a channel to Nelson’s thoughts. Whilst Confessions may be daring and raw, the hypnotic opus that is Break Me Down ensures that this album is felt as much as it is heard. Be Your Angel is perhaps the surprise of the album to me personally, yet upon reflection, it makes so much sense. The track balances Nelson’s unearthly vocal range against a delicate, acoustic guitar plucking, causing the track to feel completely alive.
Overall, the album’s subliminal message shines through, in that life isn’t some perfect, heavenly existence, rather it’s challenging, difficult and full of surprises, and for it to be like that is perfectly acceptable.
Nirvana may be considered unattainable by many, but Cub Sport will be damned if they don’t try and get there.
LIKE NIRVANA is out everywhere now.