Inhaler occupy a peculiar place in 2023’s music scene. They appear as a typical indie-rock band: four members, a heart-throb singer and songs about young adulthood powered by guitars and bravado. But they’re signed to a major label in Polydor, and frontman Elijah Hewson’s dad is Bono, 21st century’s most divisive musical figures. A curious juxtaposition.
Their stature in a crowded scene has confounded the band, too. Speaking to NME, the band recalled a conversation they had with Sam Fender about finding their place, with the Geordie hero declaring himself, the band and their contemporaries as “alternative pop”. And he’s largely right. What the Dublin band do on ‘Cuts & Bruises’, their second album, will be certainly popular; sharp enough to entice the most cynical listener and approachable for casuals. But little of what they do is alternative. The band already boast records, their debut album ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’ being the UK’s fastest-selling debut album on vinyl this century. Support slots with Arctic Monkeys and Harry Styles later this year will only further the name. Bands like theirs are breaking out on a regular basis: just look at Wet Leg’s triumphant wins at The Grammys and The Brits over the past fortnight.
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Perhaps the quandary suits them, then. While some will find it hard to get past the #NepoBaby discourse – it is your loss, honestly – there is joy to be had here on this thoroughly enjoyable collection. ‘Cuts and Bruises’ is a record that shows instead of tells: lead singles ‘Love Will Get You There’ and ‘These are The Days’ are ambitious as most pop songs ought to be, leaving a subtle and indelible trace. The album may not be teeming with experimentation – and somewhat understated in places – but it’s certainly potent enough.
The records’ touchpoints are obvious with The Killers’ ‘Sam’s Town’, The War on Drugs, The Stone Roses, and Turnstile’s woozier side seeping into their writing. A heady mix is conjured: ‘Just To Keep You Satisfied’ points to a band in less of a hurry, content to favour sonic ambition to immediacy; Hewson’s voice on ‘If You’re Gonna Break My Heart’ chimes with his old man’s, but the conviction and soul is all his own. The band do justice to ‘Dublin In Ecstasy,’ a longtime fan favourite recorded in the studio for the first time – the stans were right to clamour for it.
The momentum falters in the final third, as the mid-tempo ‘Now You Got Me’ and ‘Valentine’ both lack the record’s earlier spark. But ‘Cuts & Bruises’ leaves space for Inhaler to grow and continue developing a sound more distinctly their own. While they do lack that Fender-esque grit in their story, they are similarly zealous and charming – they’re fast carving out their own worthy place in the scene.
- Release date: February 17, 2023
- Record label: Polydor