Vocal Maturation and Conceptual Stability Prevail on Inhaler’s Sophomore LP Cuts and Bruises 

Wondering why Inhaler sounds so damn familiar but just can’t seem to put your finger on it? Well, surprisingly, your search will likely start and end with lead singer Eli Hewson who, you guessed it, is the 23-year-old son of now 62-year-old Bono Hewson of the popular Irish rock band U2.

Having listened to U2 with my father growing up, this revelation was certainly a welcomed one. Eli demonstrates a vocal maturity that extends beyond his years, and while the resemblance to Bono is undoubtedly recognizable, Eli and company have reached a greater sense of stability and cohesion on Cuts and Bruises. The vocals are thrillingly introspective, while the instrumentation wades effortlessly in tow. If It Won’t Always Be Like This was the raw appetizer, Cuts and Bruises checks in as the carefully-crafted main course.

Antony Gene sounds ready to tout his production know-how for the indie-rock quartet once again as he hurls Eli’s dramatic vocals forward on Cuts and Bruises. The introspective echoing effect added to the first and second verses of “Just to Keep You Satisfied” propels Hewson, keeping him ahead of the guitar crescendo lurking beneath the track’s surface. Some sporadic twangs and crangs trickle onto the scene, but don’t detract from Hewson’s stunning performance. He seems as focused as ever. This particular effect brings the likes of Sloan Struble to mind, albeit loosely.

In listening to this album front to back multiple times, I find myself enjoying each of the choruses, especially on the likes of “Love Will Get You There” and “So Far So Good.” Interestingly, however, at least one of the following critiques crashes their way forward on the first half of this record all too abruptly: either the chorus is a tad too long in duration, is a bit repetitive lyrically, or repeats too often in certain tracks. I imagine listeners will be left wondering why Hewson and the band purposely relied so heavily on the chorus sections. I was left wondering if “These Are The Days” ever once deviated from its chorus section.

That minor nitpick ends my critiques, as the project is incredibly sound in structure and thematics. A sense of maturation takes place lyrically and sonically as this project enters its second phase with tracks like “Perfect Storm” and “Dublin in Ecstacy.” The chorus dilemma erodes as these tracks project a unique freshness and confidence. The latter is easily tied for my favorite bout on this album—no questions asked. Elements of this track resemble the likes of faster-paced Coldplay mixed with Mumford and Sons’ “Snake Eyes.” Eli’s future seems irrefutably bright if he and the gang can continue to knock it out of the park like they did here.

Weird reference alert, but the instrumentation on “When I Have Her on My Mind” sounds like the background music of Sonic Heroes for the Nintendo Gamecube and I am very much here for it. It’s another beach-rock banger that’ll beg fans to blare this track loud and proud this summer. Crossing my fingers and hoping Inhaler receives the attention they deserve for this project because I can totally hear this song being played over the popular airwaves.

The quiet among the storm, “Valentine,” pulls the reins tight. Definitely a more thought-provoking piece, Eli rides deliberately dual chords while fantasizing over a lover. A groovy pinging noise clocks in midway through this piece and, once again, effortlessly blends its way into a phenomenal track.

“The Things I Do” is the other song that has tied for my favorite on the album. Again, it is mostly because of the steamrolling and unavoidable maturation that takes place within a mere thirty-five minutes. This feels uniquely Inhaler and is simply astonishing on all fronts—vocally, lyrically, sonically—absolutely everywhere. I’m already considering putting this track on my best of the year list which, as of right now, is a particularly challenging feat to accomplish. While the year is young, I doubt many if any will top this—dare I say it—masterpiece.

“Now You Got Me Where You Want Me” works as a holistic exit ticket, slowly bringing this powerful train to a natural halt. The same gravitas and swagger that took over after “These Are The Days” carefully holds our hand as we gaze ahead, star-struck by this impactful addition to the young band’s discography. I hope the quartet continues to produce more of what we hear particularly on the second half of this record.

Inhaler, without a doubt, had a blast producing this effort and I, without any shadow of a doubt, had an immensely fascinating time reviewing it. Give this album a chance to get rolling because once it does, you won’t look back. You’ll immerse yourself in the Inhalermania.

Cuts and Bruises is out now.

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