It seems churlish given what has been going on in the world over the last 18 months to discuss pressure when talking about rock stars and not healthcare workers, but everything is relative.
Imagine being in a young, upcoming band. Imagine striving to get a record deal. Imagine then striving again simply to make an impression. Then, as you are building a healthy amount of momentum, your stock in trade is removed from under you, so your debut album (which has pressures of its own, least of all being signed to a ruthlessly impatient major label) is held back for a year, yet you can’t ply your trade and harness your sound.
Then imagine your dad is the face (and voice) of one of the biggest bands of all time.
Whilst it’s unfair to mention singer Eli Hewson’s father (Bono Vox, by the way) in reference to Inhaler – an entirely unrelated (if you will) entity – the frontman has played a shrewd game: he knows it will be brought up in every article or review and so, rather than disassociate himself or be petulant, Hewson Jnr has been refreshingly open and courteous about the fact. They can’t beat you around the head with it if you own it.
Hewson and his bandmates don’t just own it, they harness it. If one had to cultivate a Junior U2 for the 21st century, they would sound a lot like this; widescreen, epic pop-rock music with its heart on its sleeve, but modernised with contemporary production and techniques to appeal to the target demographic.
Whilst the title (and opening) track screams ‘THIS IS POP MUSIC’, sounding not dissimilar to The 1975, it has taken on new meaning since its release as a single pre-pandemic, and is now serendipitously pertinent.
A message of hope, it hasn’t lost the capacity to exhilarate in that way that only new bands can, and sets an optimistic tone. Ironically, given how long The Killers have spent ripping off U2, it sounds very much like Brandon Flowers and co.
Drip-fed over the course of two years, the other singles fulfilled expectations: My Honest Face shimmers to an explosive chorus, as does Cheer Up Baby. The stuttering electro-calypso of Who’s Your Money On? offers a different side to the four-piece, being a song with a second half in stark contrast to the first, a dream-like state of two minutes featuring singer and guitarist (and added atmospherics).
Later on, the equally ethereal Strange Time To Be Alive repeats the trick but, while Hewson does sound unerringly like his father throughout (which is only to be expected), one suspects he actually called the old man in for an uncredited guest appearance on the track.
Pleasingly, there are several other left turns; the slinky Slide Out The Window contains a nagging synth hook but then goes quasi-psychedelic for its outro, while My King Will Be Kind manages to combine a crunching guitar reminiscent of early Stereophonics with what, when stripped of the production, is a sea shanty.
It also features lyrics that are out of step with the rest of the album (it’s not often a line such as, ‘I fucking hate that bitch’, is surrounded by such smooth production), although it is telling a tale of teens having their minds twisted by online extremists.
Best of all is the boisterous In My Sleep, built around a Hooky-esque bassline that feels like it’s being played atop a mountain.
While by no means perfect (Totally sounds like Coldplay on downers), It Won’t Always Be Like This is crammed with pop hooks, and has an assuredness and confidence that’s impressive for a debut album. Having pedigree and patronage is one thing. Making the most of it is another.