Australian music is on a high. They’ve always had something up their sleeves, ever since The Easybeats scored Australia’s first ever rock’n’roll hit back in ’66 with ‘Friday on My Mind’. However, in recent times there’s been a stream of high-quality stuff, across all genres; from the lo-fi punk of The Chats to the singer-songwriter indie-rock of Courtney Barnett, and from the guitar-based Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever to the quirky indie songs of Stella Donnelly. To misquote one of our long deceased Prime Ministers, Harold Macmillan, they’ve never had it so good.
Cub Sport are an important milestone in Australian music, developing roughly in tandem with the new found freedoms enjoyed by the people of Australia, namely the approval of same sex marriage in late 2017, which followed a favourable nationwide plebiscite. For Cub Sport are made up of three men and a woman, two of whom have subsequently expressed their love for each other, consummated by married, just last summer. Songwriter and founder Tim Nelson hooked up with keyboardist Sam Netterfield, and it’s the backdrop to that, as well as its aftermath, that informs this self-titled album, their third in total.
While their first album had a more indie-rock orientated sound, and was plagued by self doubt, the award-winning follow-up, Bats, concerned both self-acceptance and hidden emotion, with synth pop as its main way of expressing that. With r’n’b, neo-soul and pop as its touchstones, Cub Sport is a sensual, warm, dreamy and loved-up record that banishes fear, through a celebration of identity, sexuality, and spirituality, marking the further development of Nelson as a songwriter and human.
‘Party Pill’ – “When I was 17 I fell in love” – embodies and details the romance between the pair, dotted with small and endearing details, and wrapped up in synth-heavy pop, while the smooth r’n’b ambience of ‘Trees’ is but one example of the words literally spilling out of Nelson’s mouth; love at its core, as it is for pretty much the whole album. It’s all in the title of the beat and synth-driven ‘Come Out’: “Yeah, I came out, and I felt fucking free / but there’s so much more, deep inside of me,” Nelson sings rather disarmingly, both his conversational and poetic soft pop-tones not a million miles away from Prince.
While the atmosphere is generally contemplative and melancholic, there are a couple of dance stompers in the mix, with the help of Brisbane producer Golden Vessel. There’s the album’s lead single, and pop-friendly ‘Sometimes’, and the deep house ticks, rhythms and manipulated vocal of ‘Limousine’, rubbing shoulders with more soulful, stripped-back outings such as the synth and powerful vocal-only ‘Light II’, and the largely instrumental and experimental house meets r’n’b of ‘Lift Me Up’.
Coming out, and being honest, and helping others to do the same via their music. Following on from deep questioning, and a fearfulness for what the truth may hold, Tim Nelson and Cub Sport have come to the truth of the matter. That love and acceptance are what really matters. Cub Sport is subsequently a highly personal album – albeit a little too long, and indulgent for those perhaps not quite in the same space as Nelson – but one that nevertheless resonates with not only gay people, but anyone with a heart. As he sings on ‘I’m Not Scared’: “Is it okay to sing about these things? / Because you’ve become my everything.”