Inhaler has ‘Cuts & Bruises,’ but they’ve won the fight
Anna Falk | Thursday, February 23, 2023
I’ve seen U2 in concert three times. Once at Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field) in Pittsburgh, once at the United Center in Chicago and once at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. While my attendance was largely based on the fact that my parents are giant fans and I wasn’t old enough to stay at home, I can still say I’ve grown quite fond of the Irish rockers.
Knowing this, imagine my surprise when I found out Bono’s son had a band of his own.
In the spring of 2020, my sister and I sat in our 2009 gold Honda Accord (named Rudy) while we waited in the Starbucks drive-thru line. She asked if she could play something for me (to which I agreed), and she turned on “My Honest Face,” the first single from Inhaler’s debut LP. It rocked my world, and I’ve continued to listen to the band as they’ve gathered a devoted following.
With their new album, “Cuts & Bruises,” I did what I always do when a band I like releases new music — I avoided it like the plague. Unless something comes along to force me to listen to a new album or song, I try to forget about it so I won’t be disappointed if it turns out bad.
But Inhaler’s second LP, released on Feb. 17, is anything but bad. Some tracks are better than others by a mile, but the album as a whole shows that they’ve beat the sophomore slump and are on their way to greater success.
The Dublin quartet — Elijah “Eli” Hewson (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Robert “Bobby” Keating (bass), Josh Jenkinson (lead guitar) and Ryan McMahon (drums) — wrote much of “Cuts & Bruises” while on tour for their 2021 debut, “It Won’t Always Be Like This.” The beginning half of the record sounds like it would fit perfectly in an early-2000s teen rom-com starring Lindsay Lohan, Emma Roberts or Amanda Bynes. It features introspective verses and uplifting choruses backed by resounding pop-rock instrumentation. Featuring the album’s singles, this half is good, but it lacks any innovation or flair.
When I listened to the LP before, I stopped before the second half. This was a terrible decision. Once the eerie backing vocals of “Perfect Storm” commence, the course of the album takes a turn for the better.
“Dublin in Ecstasy” is a long-time fan favorite and cult classic of the band. They’ve played it live since their teenage years and made the decision to release it officially. “The Things I Do” features an insanely groovy beat that resonates with the soul. “Now You Got Me” is a perfect closer with a riff from Keating that’s worth obsessing over.
What I think makes these songs stand out in particular is how Hewson uses his voice. The 22 year old sounds a lot like his dad when he was young, and fans of both Inhaler and U2 are reminded of this with each new release. “Cuts & Bruises” is an album reflecting on love and loss, the good days and the bad, feeling like you’re on top of the world and being down in the dumps. The first half mainly reflects those happy and nostalgic moments, while the second mainly reflects the ones you’d rather not suffer through. I do, in fact, enjoy happy music, but I think the lyrically and instrumentally-expressed vulnerability of the second half brings out a certain power in Hewson’s voice.
This LP shows a promising future for the group and it’s one that’s currently unfolding, as they were recently announced as support for Arctic Monkeys and Harry Styles’ upcoming European tours. They’ve certainly got the guts to change the music world, and I think they’ll continue to evolve miraculously despite all the cuts and bruises.
Album: “Cuts & Bruises”
Favorite tracks: “Perfect Storm,” “Dublin in Ecstasy,” “The Things I Do”
If you like: Sam Fender, Wallows
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5