Expectations run high for your band when the lead singer’s father is the most famous musician to come out of Ireland in the last century. Such is the case for Inhaler, an indie rock band that is lesser known here across the pond but a growing sensation in Europe.
The band is composed of guitarist Josh Jenkinson, drummer Ryan McMahon, bassist Robert Keating and guitarist and lead vocalist Elijah Hewson. Hewson is the son of Paul David Hewson, better known as Bono, the lead singer of international sensation U2.
In an age of growing criticism toward “nepotism babies,” can Inhaler stand on its own? Or is it merely riding the coattails of familial success?
Inhaler’s first album arguably stands as a testament to its independent merit. Delivered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Inhaler’s debut album “It Won’t Always Be Like This” burst onto the Irish and U.K. charts at No. 1. Soon after announcing that it would return to open for the Arctic Monkeys on their 2023 European tour, Inhaler released its long-awaited sophomore album “Cuts & Bruises” on Feb. 17.
“Cuts & Bruises” marks a new, mature step for Inhaler’s sound. The harsher edges of its music have been polished off, moving away from the rebellious tone of its first album toward a more wistful yet piercing one on its follow-up.
The band’s guitar-forward music is now complemented by the additiocn of a heavier synth, especially apparent in the opening song “Just To Keep You Satisfied.” This use of synth creates an otherworldly aura, setting the stage for an album the band hopes to separate rather clearly from their debut.
Nevertheless, the band’s signature sound still shines. In songs like “Love Will Get You There” and “These Are The Days,” the band relishes in its adolescent spunk, unabashedly declaring the glory of youth. The band revels in its youthfulness while avoiding naivety, as all its exclamations hint to an awareness that its youthful freedom is bound to end. As Hewson says in “These Are The Days,” “I’m holding out/I’m hanging on/For that moment where it all goes wrong.”
After these moments of revelry, the band becomes more reflective, pondering a past relationship. In the album’s strongest moment of songwriting, the song “Perfect Storm” uses a stream of water metaphors to describe a tumultuous past romance. While narrowly avoiding being too on-the-nose with its metaphors, the song draws the listener into that sea of nostalgia that overwhelms as Hewson looks back on an imperfect yet alluring relationship.
The album then falls out of its groove slightly, as its next few songs, particularly “Valentine,” suffer from blandness. Despite this lull, the band comes back in full gusto with its final two songs of the album. “The Things I Do” brings back the twinkling grooves from earlier in the album, while “Now You Got Me” finishes off with some fun spunk as the singer appears to surrender to the object of his affections.
Despite the album’s lower points, there’s something irresistible about Inhaler’s music. While overly earnest and a bit lackluster at times, the band still carries the charm of its garage-band roots.
While this album lacks the endearingly rebellious nature of its debut, it shows a more polished sound and a deeper sense of contemplation about what the band really wants to be. If anything, the consciousness that Inhaler showed in this album just excites listeners for what it has next in store. Who knows — maybe it will be the next U2.
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