Inhaler is a robust, energetic, up-and-coming indie-alternative band straight out of the lush musical depths of Dublin, Ireland. Having released their relatively successful debut album “It Won’t Always Be Like This in the summer of 2021 (spawning successful radio hits such as “My Honest Face” and “When It Breaks”), music critics and indie fans alike were both surprised and delighted when the band announced yet another upcoming album “Cuts And Bruises” partway through 2022.
Inhaler’s most forthright claim to fame is their lead singer’s rich musical heritage. Elijah Hewson is the lead singer and guitarist of the outfit and is also the oldest son of Paul and Ali Hewson. Paul Hewson is also known professionally as Bono, the frontman of U2.
“Cuts and Bruises” reflects upon Inhaler’s masterful amalgamation of their country of origin and their musical genre. While their sound is ostensibly American- and British- tinged with its chimed, distorted “indie” color, the band also undoubtedly channels the Irish scrappiness and soulfulness that other bands such as Thin Lizzy and Inhaler’s natural godfathers U2 harnessed so well. Hewson’s lyrics are in many ways very reminiscent of his father’s, with their carefully elected and oriented phrases and curiously insightful and relatable themes.
The album kicks off with the absolutely suberb mid-tempo track Just To Keep You Satisfied, an 80s-shaded power pop piece with gorgeous layered reverbed guitar intricacies, punchy, driving drums, and some immensely articulated yet poignantly catchy lyrics from the pen of Hewson.
Following this banger of an opener is the equally impressive Love Will Get You There, the album’s lead single and the band’s largest radio single to date. Starkly simple in its construction, the song’s softly saturated instrumentation and candid, optimist lyrics distinctly reflect the band’s discrete Irishness and subtle yet very much present U2 influence.
Continuing on with the strong, up-tempo pop vibe, the album’s third track So Far So Good combines moody, ponderous lyrics with some deliciously crispy guitar tones in the chorus.
Widely hailed as the chief commercial and artistic success of the album, fourth track These Are The Days hearkens the band to a Phil Spector-esque galloping wall of synths and distortion. With exciting, nearly nostalgic lyrics about living your best life in your youth, this definite college-age oriented anthem deserves all the praise it receives.
Altering the vibe a bit is the fifth track If You’re Gonna Break My Heart, a surprisingly poignant and heartfelt ballad about an unfortunate (hopefully imagined) breakup. The song also showcases some brilliant guitar tone by the lads – the very mid-boosted, Fender tremolo effects create a powerful soundscape for Hewson’s introspective lyrical points of reflection, reminiscence, and regret.
The album furthers on its strong pace with a trio of well-made, solid mid-album transition songs. Perfect Storm is as much of a paradox as its title suggests, with its haunting echoing background vocals, distorted organs, and equally ominous lyrics about conflict and impending heartbreak. Following this unsettling tension is Dublin In Ecstasy, admittedly in my opinion the weakest song on the album. While nevertheless a great tune about the exhaustive nature of the Irish urban party culture, the song suffers by being very reminiscent of a few of the earlier mid-tempo songs from the record. Thankfully, the absolute banger When I Have Her On My Mind pulls the listener out of this metaphorical musical rut with its blistering tempo, brilliant ambient production, and tastefully catchy hook and chorus.
The final three songs of the album end the album on a beautifully intriguing artistic adventure through style and genre. Driven by marvelous, growling bass work by Robert Keating, Valentine presents the listener to a slower, at times acoustically driven ballad which leads to a brighter, pleading chorus of hope and lost love. The Things I Do is the most artistically contrasting and tonally distinct song of the entire album, with its drum-machine driven rhythm section and wonderfully warm, strongly presented string section leading the charge. Albeit underrated, the song is as brilliant as it is unique, truly serving as one of the centerpieces in my opinion of the band’s career thus far. Surprisingly, the album’s ultimate track Now You Got Me is the dirtiest, fuzziest, most aggressively rock-oriented track on the entire record, forcefully and masterfully bringing this delightful album to its proper-deserved, satisfying conclusion.
Best Track: “Just To Keep You Satisfied” – exceedingly memorable and a masterful example of modern indie production. Hewson’s lyrics are wise beyond his years (very reminiscent of his father) yet also remaining definitely danceable and delightfully catchy.
Worst Track: “Dublin In Ecstasy” – As previously mentioned, the track is quite similar to previously played tracks on the record and does little to make it unique or worthwhile.
Album rating: 8.7/10
I didn’t expect much from this record, initially largely tossing it off as overhyped promotional propaganda utilizing Bono’s family name for career clout.
Simply put, I could not have been more wrong. Hewson is undoubtedly forming his own artistic image through the songs and lyrics in this album. While it is ostensibly Irish and unquestionably U2-tinged, the album demonstrated to be a rare example of modern musical brilliance in an increasingly saturated and overhyped indie scene. Top quality job by these incredibly talented young musical phenoms. I, along with the band’s ever-increasing throngs of dedicated followers and fans, am eagerly anticipating their next release!