In recent years, the Dublin-based rock band Inhaler have really been making a splash on the Irish music scene and gaining a ton of international recognition. After cutting their teeth for the best part of the 2010s, releasing singles and playing gigs, festivals, television, and radio spots, they are now here with their debut album, It Won’t Always Be Like This.
Inhaler’s music indicates the Irish alternative-and-indie-inspired pop-rock that has been popular for the past two decades, comparable to acts such as Snow Patrol, The Coronas, Picture This, Bell X1, and The Riptide Movement, to name a few examples. There are also detections of various post-Britpop indie acts like Klaxons, Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian, The Wombats, and Stereophonics, as well as some post-punk and new wave influence, particularly Blondie. This is all neatly tied together by a stellar production from Antony Genn, a well-seasoned musician who has been a member of Pulp, Elastica, and The Hours.
Each member of Inhaler gets a real opportunity to shine on this album, but in subtle ways that many listeners who are not musicians themselves may not fully appreciate the ingenuity gone into making these songs what they are, but anyone with a keen ear should appreciate the little finesse and artistry added to each song. It Won’t Always Be Like This offers some nice variety in its musical stylings.
The tracklist does a good job of ebbing and flowing between the different emotions and experiences each song wants to convey while also having an overall continuity between all of the songs on the album. The album fluctuates between slow and reflective to upbeat and bombastic, with a healthy heterogeneity of instruments, chord progressions, effects, and genre influence, combined with sombre lyrical content that is not always cooperating with the feeling that the instrumentation is leading the listener to have.
The album’s main theme is relationships woes (not exclusively romantic relationships) in conjunction with mental health issues: “My Honest Face” deals with an abusive protagonist who is trying to dupe their significant other into believing that they’ve changed; “Cheer Up Baby” is about convincing a loved one that they are not dealing with their struggles alone; “When It Breaks” is about reconnecting, post-lockdown; “Who’s Your Money On? (Plastic House)” tackles with the regret of not taking a chance on a potential love; “Totally” deals with the trepidation of leaving an obviously stale relationship; and the title track deals with the torment of unreciprocated interest. At least those are the interpretations of this reviewer. Your results may vary.
When talking about the album’s lyrical content, one song that can’t go unmentioned is “My King Will Be Kind”, which features a potentially misogynistic lyric in the chorus (“She says I’ve got no love/I fuckin’ hate that bitch”). For artists today (especially new artists coming up), there is an understandable aversion towards including in their work anything that may be deemed problematic, for fear of it being stripped of context and presented only by its most literal and po-faced understanding.
However, even with the benefit of context and taking the usage in good faith by not slapping the worst possible interpretation onto it, it is still a pretty daring and intrepid line to put in a song nowadays; and whether or not you think it works will be a matter of personal opinion. That’s the risk taken when creating subversive art: some may consider it bold and opining, while others may take it literally. Regardless, it is a line that definitely stands out, and it takes gumption to have included it.
Inhaler have made one hell of a debut album, which will undoubtedly ensure their continued relevancy and success within the Irish music scene and beyond. With the notable exception of the penultimate song, “What a Strange Time to Be Alive”, any of the songs on this record have the potential to be a big radio hit. There is a real sense of sincerity and thought put into the lyrics, but they are left open-ended enough for multiple interpretations of their meanings to be had.
There is a willingness to experiment with different genre style marks from song-to-song, while still delivering the expected indie-pop earworms. If you have been losing interest in indie rock, it would be worth checking out It Won’t Always Be Like This. It injects some new colour and vibrancy into the genre.