Irish rock band Inhaler released their first official single in 2017, and now five years, two albums, and one Music Moves Europe Talent Award later, they’ve established themselves as a band worth noting. On February 17, 2023, Inhaler released their long-awaited sophomore album Buts & Bruises under Polydor Records, the album an eleven song collection that maintains the band’s rock theme with new messages of love and influence. Elijah Hewson (vocals, guitar), Robert Keating (bass, backing vocals), Ryan McMahon (drums), and Josh Jenkinson (guitar) released their debut It Won’t Always Be Like This in 2021, the album an immediate success around Ireland and the UK. In Cuts & Bruises, Inhaler hones in on their steady indie rock sound, but challenge themselves and listeners with unique simplicity.
The album opens with “Just To Keep You Satisfied,” a simpler piece that hints at greatness ahead. The normally full blast electric guitar — that makes an appearance in the following song “Love Will Get You There” — takes a backseat along with the drums, allowing the song to speak for itself as a preview of Inhaler’s new era. However, listeners of their debut will still recognize the band for what they are, especially with tracks like “These Are The Days” that channel indie rock electric riffs reminiscent of their first album.
Throughout the album, Inhaler utilizes their newfound experiences traveling and performing around the world to enhance their music beyond their native Dublin roots. In “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart” the quartet incorporates harmonica scales and country-Esq notes to symbolize the great American countryside. It’s an ode to open highways, 7-Elevens, and Bruce Springsteen, all American staples the band came to know while touring with the Arctic Monkeys. “I showed you mercy/ You gave me murder/ I got your ten tonne monkey jumping up on my back/ We got caught in the ride/ Of being young and alive.”
“Perfect Storm,” the sixth track on Cuts & Bruises, leads in with slow guitar strums and rapid cymbal taps. As Hewson sings about a messy relationship, the instruments build up, turning into a coming-of-age song full of angst and regret. “So why are we trying to kill/ Something that’s been so good?/ I can’t explain it now/ So wait.” The next piece “Dublin in Ecstacy” is as much a reminder of Inhaler’s roots for their listeners as it is for themselves. Having written the song as teenagers, the band has fond memories of performing it on stage when they were 17 to 18 years old, the nostalgic track a calling for their love of the indie rock genre.
“The Things I Do,” the tenth song, separates itself the most on the album. Blaring in with loud, staccato piano chords and retaining a more funk-rock beat throughout the track, Inhaler steps out of their heavy drum comfort zone to create something singular and invigorating. Inspired by Billy Preston, “The Things I Do” uses piano notes and choir-like harmonizing to transcend Cuts & Bruises to more than a follow-up rock collection.
The album closes with “Now You Got Me,” a cinematic rock end to an album revolving around the lengths one band can take the genre. Cuts & Bruises might not be an experimental sequel to their debut, but it is, regardless, a breakthrough album for a band that’s achieved massive success in such a short amount of time. Inhaler smartly uses their learnings from touring around the world to not change their music, but better it, leaving out for the world a hard-hitting rock album that’s far from injury prone.