The second studio album, “Cuts & Bruises,” from Dublin-based band Inhaler is here, bringing a bold take on their signature sound. The release comes as the band is gaining popularity globally, supporting acts such as Harry Styles and Arctic Monkeys. Appealing to a wide audience, they maintain a light pop sound with moments of alternative indie rock experimentation layered throughout the album. Overall, it’s reminiscent of a continuation of their debut album, “It Won’t Always Be Like This.” Their sound is distinct, youthful and littered with some filthy guitar riffs.
Before the release of the album the band put out three singles, “These Are The Days,” “Love Will Get You There” and “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart.” While these tracks, at face value, give a pop vibe with an aftertaste of indie rock, they still maintain a mainstream sound like something you would hear on the radio or shopping at Target. The rest of the album doesn’t carry this same affect and the further you delve into the discography the more it starts to truly develop into an indie rock album.
The first song, “Just To Keep You Satisfied,” starts off “Cuts & Bruises” with layers, revealing a mix of musical styles in one song, and a more unconventional sound appears. It’s a song representative of the album in a way– the further you listen the more you see an enticing blend of genres appear. It kicks off the album with an emphasis less on vocals and more on overall production; the spacey synths with a steady bass line peak at the bridge with some scratchy reverb joining the elements.
Another track off the album which leans heavily into sonic aspects rather than developing the lyrics is “Dublin in Ecstasy.” A song depicting youth in the city, it highlights guitar riffs reminiscent of the mid-90s that send the listener into their own world, enveloped in heavy chords. It feels like a buffer in the album, a moment to make the listener feel the music.
Songs like “When I Have Her On My Mind” and “Valentine” are tracks that have an authentically Inhaler feeling. Lyrically, these songs are ambiguous love songs that acknowledge the nuance of emotion in youthful relationships. Lead singer Eli Hewson’s vocals really show out in these songs, his charming voice is matured and grainy enough to bring the rock element home. In these songs specifically I can find a hint of his father, Bono, the lead singer of U2, faintly in his vocals.
What this album carries consistently is youthfulness, not immaturity or adolescence, but a carpe diem relatability. The lyrics depict the stage of life the boys are in themselves, they are writing about what they know and it shows through.
While this album is a step up from their first, I think I was left looking for more. The sound that Inhaler established with their debut felt more calculated and while the effect this album gives is similar, I was hoping for the boys to branch out a bit more. But that’s not to say the tracks that are good aren’t going to be a regular on my music rotation for a bit.
Overall, this album seems to serve also as a stepping stone onto a bigger stage. As they are brought further into the spotlight, topping charts and opening for some of the biggest names, they are sticking true to their sound, bringing us ballads of boyhood. This is just the start for the band and it’s looking so far, so good.
Written By: Tessa Balc