Inhaler: The blessing and the curse of being Bono's son's band
Their debut album is a confident record that should do enough to sweep away the obvious U2 comparisons. Here's how the number 1 album justifies the hype.
The fact that frontman Elijah Hewson is following in the footsteps of his father Bono has often threatened to overshadow the very existence of the band themselves.
In case you've been living under a rock for the past 40 years and don't know who Bono is, he's the overexuberant lead singer of U2, Paul Hewson (yes, that is his actual name). It's the elephant in the room For Inhaler that they've often struggled to escape from.
Famous father: help or hindrance?
Such an association with a famous father can be both a help and a hindrance in an indie world that craves authenticity and a romantic underdog story.
You're quickly written off by some, though, at the same time, you have doors opened that would normally be locked shut for new artists. You're provided with a backstory that intrigues the listener before they've even pressed play, as fans and cynics of the parental band rush to make a quick judgement and comparison.
For Inhaler, it's probably a mixture of the two. Formed at the independent St. Andrews school in Dublin in 2015, people began to take notice of the band after they finished fifth on the BBC Sound of 2020 list. They backed up the hype with a collection of brilliant songs to sweep away any initial scepticism.
They've also been quick to distance themselves from U2, possessing a self-awareness of what people's preconceptions of them might be. Speaking to the BBC ahead of their Sound of 2020 inclusion, 21-year-old Hewson rightly pointed out both the advantages and challenges that had faced the band due to his father.
"It has definitely allowed a lot of doors to be opened, but I think those doors shut just as fast because some people may have had pre-biases to the band"
Which is absolutely a fair point. The cynic in me resisted giving them much attention due to a preconceived idea that they'd just be playing to the U2 crowd (in more ways than one) and undeservedly had opportunities thrust their way. Over time they won me over.
You can't deny that Elijah passes more than a passing resemblance to Bono. You're immediately drawn to his 80s style mullet and earring, and sonically you'll definitely hear more than the odd glimpse of his old man. Though, in fairness, this feels natural rather than any kind of contrived effort to curry favour with U2's established worldwide following.
Aside from that, listening to their music and reading their interviews, Inhaler certainly hold little desire to play to that gallery and are definitely no copycat act. Only the harshest of critics would label them as such.
Creating their own path
With the obvious comparison undoubtedly to be made, they've backed up their media praise with a brilliant 11 track album that combines indie rock, groove-filled songs and synth-pop to great effect.
In interviews, the band (which also includes bassist Robert Keating, guitarist Josh Jenkinson and drummer Ryan McMahon) have spoken of being inspired by Manchester bands like The Smiths, Joy Division and The Stone Roses. Those influences certainly do come through, though you're just as likely to make comparisons to contemporary bands like Blossoms and The 1975.
The tunes are well-produced and hooky, but still subtle enough for a place in the indie/alternative world. This is, of course, a scene that long-abandoned the noughties mainstream-chasing U2, a decade where they became the antithesis of cool in the pages of indie publications like the NME.
Such publications have now embraced Inhaler (granted under a different editorial direction), whilst U2's reputation within the underground music world is beyond recovery. Even if they never catch the same sale numbers, Elijah and co can hang onto that street cred over Bono and boys (well, for now anyway).
It Won't Always Be Like This success
On 16 July, It Won't Always Be Like This marched straight into the UK Official Albums chart at number 1, kicking Olivia Rodrigo's Sour from the top spot. Helped by the likes of NME and Radio 1, they became the first Irish artist to top the chart since The Script in 2008.
With a debut number 1 album, they've achieved a feat U2 failed with on Boy, a record which didn't even make the top 40. Though obviously that can be caveated and the ten numbers ones U2 achieved after that will mean The Edge, Bono and co won't exactly be losing sleep over it.
At 45 minutes long, the flow of their debut is seriously impressive. Opening track 'It Won't Always Be Like This' is a brilliant statement of intent, with energy, a pummelling bass-line and an explosive chorus, whilst 'My Honest Face' holds a certain pounding stadium rock quality.
Fourth track 'Cheer Up Baby' is another with a big radio-friendly hook, though, seemingly lacking in cutting edge. Third track 'Slide Out The Window' is packed with summer vibes, a chilled-out indie-pop tune packed with groove. Whether deliberate or not, I was feeling a certain Foals vibe and that ain't no bad thing at all.
'Totally' was an immediate favourite, deliciously poppy, groove-filled and heart-breaking, a track you'll want to play on repeat. Sitting nine tracks in, it's a delicate pop song that definitely adds a certain freshness to the end of the record.
The riff on 'When It Breaks' provides a flashback to the noughties indie, a swaggering rock highlight inspired by Antics-era Interpol. Whilst closer 'In My Sleep' ends the album on a high with its energetic, 80s post-punk vibes. Dare I say it, there's even a touch of early U2...
It Won't Always Be Like This is an incredibly smooth indie rock record, with pop hooks, swagger and plenty of interesting moments thrown in for good measure.
For the most part, Inhaler deliver on their debut. The U2 comparison will always be there for some - and an undeniable influence here and there - but for the most part they're doing enough to avoid cynicism.
The album title may provide a chin-up style message about heartbreak, but it can also equally refer to the early media reporting of the band. The more they deliver with great tunes like on this debut, the less people will feel the need to mention the famous connection.
For the moment, they can live with or without the U2 connection (sorry, I had to fit a U2 pun in here somewhere!).
They're certainly going places, and it's not just because of the obvious comparison to the legendary Dublin band. Before long, they'll be judged purely on their own merits. It's certainly an enjoyable and confident guitar record fit for radio play and festival headlining slots.