Cuts & Bruises | Zoey Preston
Inhaler, an indie rock band from Dublin, Ireland, released their debut album It Won’t Always Be Like This in 2021 to an astounding success. Bored and stuck in the midst of the pandemic, the quartet — comprised of guitarist and vocalist Elijah Hewson, guitarist Josh Jenkinson, bassist Robert Keating, and drummer Ryan McMahon — began exploring the depths of their songwriting and artistry. The album delves into themes of teenage innocence, self-discovery, and maturity that comes with the horror of living through a global tragedy. Lead singer Elijah Hewson’s voice is rich and emotional and enticing. The lyrics flow nicely; the dynamics keep it interesting with each song having a unique sonic identity. The glittery synths, punchy beats, and huge beltable-in-your-car-on-the-way-to-school choruses cemented It Won’t Always Be Like This as one of my favorite albums, and cemented Inhaler as one of my favorite bands. (My favorites from the album are “My Honest Face,” “My King Will Be Kind,” and “Who’s Your Money On.”)
Still, the album is about growing up through uncertainty and the band questioning its own future, embodying everything a debut album should be. It made me excited to know that I was there in the early days, and that one day, I could look back on the music that defined an era of my life, knowing how far the band had come too. I waited eagerly for what was coming next.
When Inhaler released their single “These Are the Days” in June 2022, I knew I had found the song of my summer. It was like an evolution of their first album; an uptempo anthem that had a touch more musical maturity that felt big and summery. Hewson himself said in an interview with Apple Music, “The thing with this song is that it felt like a gateway into the second album for us, a transition song.” That it was — in October, they announced their sophomore album, Cuts and Bruises, along with the release of their second single off the record, “Love Will Get You There.” The track was a little darker and more bittersweet than the feel-good indie anthems from the previous album. It felt to me like a step in a different direction. I couldn’t wait to see what the next album would bring. Then, I realized I had to wait four months.
On February 17, 2023, after much anticipation, Inhaler released Cuts & Bruises. Needless to say, they did not disappoint.
The album is the perfect next step for the band. The songs just have an extra air of confidence in both the strength of the songwriting and the playing, giving the band freedom for musical exploration and creativity. The record is more open than the previous, leaving room for each of the instruments to shine. It’s an homage to their time on the road and really encapsulates the band’s journey going from the pandemic to touring the world. Bassist Robert Keating said, “With the first album we were still learning our craft, doing hundreds of takes sometimes because we just weren’t able to play as well as we could. This time, because we’ve done so many gigs, it’s like being able to ride a bike finally. It just felt right, and that definitely influenced our music.” And it’s apparent in their music this time. It’s polished, full of experimentation and new sounds we have never heard from Inhaler.
My favorites from the album are surprisingly the deep-cuts. As much as I loved the singles, the less sing-along songs were enticing to me. “Perfect Storm” feels like a story. The entire song builds on itself, starting with long, held out reverb-y guitar chords and Eli’s voice. But the drums kickstart, and the second verse finally builds to the huge chorus at the end in a way that’s almost cinematic. “Dublin in Ecstasy” might have been my favorite. Maybe it’s because it’s their most nostalgic song and an old fan favorite, but it feels at home in this more mature album. The guitars in particular shine in this song, especially when they were sometimes overshadowed by the synths on It Won’t Always Be Like This. It’s darker and more emotional and just so catchy. “The Things You Do” is the least Inhaler-sounding song on the album, but the combination of keys and shimmery guitars gives the track a more relaxed, woozier feel. Though the strings in the beginning do sound a little bit like the intro to Hamilton, the song grew on me the more I listened, and I eventually fell in love with the new instrumentation. And, I won’t even lie, the melody in the pre-chorus was stuck in my head for a week.
Maybe the reason I love Inhaler so much, and why I love both their albums so much, is because I feel like I’m growing up with them. Cuts & Bruises, to me, represents the changes that come with leaving home and existing by ourselves within the real world, specifically the confidence and growth we develop. As I follow them on their musical journey, touring with huge names like Arctic Monkeys and Harry Styles, I feel as though I’m just beginning to delve into my own journey. I’m recording my first album with my band. I’m headed to college to study music and hopefully become a musician some day. Elijah Hewson’s father is Bono, so I can’t exactly say they were self-made. (Although, I will say he is my favorite nepo baby.) Still, I can literally hear them grow up in their music. And at the end of the day, nepotism or not, good music is good music. Watching them change from their debut to their second album, I become excited for what my own future holds. The band is talented, the music is good, and I’m ready to see what’s to come.