Photo Credit: Lewis Evans
Following up their 2021 debut It Won’t Always Be Like This, which saw the band peaking on both the Irish and the U.K. album charts, as well as joining Kings of Leon as an opening act on their When You See Yourself tour, Dublin’s Inhaler returns with their second album, Cuts & Bruises. Despite – or perhaps because of – their isolated geographical location and modest population of 5 million inhabitants, Ireland continues to keep their music scene blooming. In the shadow of legendary giants like The Pogues and U2, there are groups like Fontaines D.C., the Murder Capital, Just Mustard, and Gilla Band ensuring that the Irish scene is alive and well.
Then there are groups with a more direct connection to their founding fathers. Inhaler is an excellent example of this, with singer, guitarist, and writer Elijah Hewson being the son of Bono, the legendary singer of U2 (who recently dropped their catalog-revisiting Songs of Surrender). It’s impossible to say anything about any song here without making parallels to U2. “Just to Keep You Satisfied” is a brisk album opener, introducing us to their guitar-driven, early-‘80s sound (Compare them to Prefab Sprout, early R.E.M., or Echo and the Bunnymen if you prefer that over U2) that sets the stage for much of the rest of the album.
The obvious highlight on Cuts & Bruises is the synth-infused, arena-ready “These are the Days,” seeing the band charging up a gear with a chorus not too different from The The’s “This Is the Day.” The following “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart” introduces a bluesier, more laid-back approach that makes for the record’s finest, most dynamic two-song-streak. What eventually stops some of these songs from becoming new classics is essentially the fact that it doesn’t seem to have very much to say about anything. “I wasn’t really the most literate teenager,” Elijah Hewson admitted in an interview earlier this year, revealing how he used to make lyrics up “on the spot during the performance.”
Unfortunately for Elijah, it still sounds as if that’s the case. Even if his singing is almost ridiculously similar to his father, his writing is a big let-down. “The Things I Do” is an attempt at being introspective, but it comes off as repetitive and bland, something you could rarely say about U2’s songs. Similarly, songs like “Dublin in Ecstasy” or even bigger hit singles like “Love Will Get You There” lack the cultural heir and the detailed descriptions that often make Irish music outstanding.