Inhaler: Cuts and Bruises Review – A Band That Has Found their Sound

Andrew Walsh

Inhaler emerged in the Irish music scene a few years ago in the now-standard format for a group of lads from Dublin – an indie-rock band with a confident singer as the frontman, producing bold songs about love and young adulthood with the odd guitar riff to match the mood.

Typically, this format lends itself to little controversy, as the genuine expression of early adult angst strikes a chord with many listeners. With Inhaler, however, everything is different. Frontman Elijah “Eli” Hewson’s dad is Bono, arguably one of the most famous figures in recent music history, and the seemingly “indie” band is actually signed to Polydor, a major international record label. The band, before producing a single of their own, had a legacy to follow.

Through their first album It Won’t Always Be Like This, Inhaler started off strong on the path to self identity, and established an audience of their own, almost entirely separate from U2’s global fanbase. The success of their first album meant that the band were able to perform headline gigs, and they are set to support music icons such as Harry Styles and the Arctic Monkeys later this year. Despite these achievements however, many still attribute the band’s success to Eli’s ‘nepo-baby’ status.

With their newest album Cuts and Bruises, Inhaler have attempted to somewhat shake this legacy and entirely forge their own identity. The album is set to be critically and commercially successful, with a distinctly comfortable and fine-tuned sound approachable enough for casual listeners and critics alike. The album is closer to vintage pop than rock, but this does not take away from the genuine sound produced by a band that has found its voice.

Many of the biggest songs on the album seem to sonically refer to some of the band’s influences. The distinct sounds of iconic rock bands such as The Stone Roses, The Killers, Kings of Leon and The Cure can be heard throughout many of the songs. These influences are particularly audible in the biggest hit of the album, ‘These Are the Days’, an impactful rock song almost worthy of “anthem” status, as well as slower beats such as ‘Just To Keep You Satisfied’, a song that’s in less of a hurry but full of ambition from guitarist Josh Jenkinson and drummer Ryan McMahon. 

Frontman Eli inherits his father’s singing talents, almost completely emulating Bono’s voice in the melody of ‘If You’re Gonna Break My Heart’. The album generally leaves something to be desired with the lyrics, however there are moments of triumph such as ‘Perfect Storm’, where the singer poetically describes his broken heart “lying in the wreck of your perfect storm”.

While these young musicians (not to leave out bassist Robert Keating who regularly thrives throughout), are not breaking major ground for rock or pop music with Cuts and Bruises, this is not what the Dublin lads set out to do. What Inhaler does achieve is a solidly consistent second album which will keep fans happy and encourage new listeners to tune in.

What the band also achieves, arguably a greater accomplishment than a well-produced album, is their identity as a group, fully realised. Cynics will continue to wrongly suggest that Eli’s father is the only reason for the band’s success, but Eli, through this second album, has become his own unique artist separate from his famous family ties, and Inhaler’s journey is clearly only beginning.

Andrew Walsh