The fact that Acres are only just releasing their debut album now really does feel like cause for concern. Back in 2017 when their In Sickness & Health EP was released, they were jumping on a style of post-hardcore that had its eyes set on emotional swell, but ultimately wound up as the melodramatic, overpolished fare that would’ve maybe flown at the Britrock apex of the early 2010s, but not at a point when that sound had already effectively been buried. And now, when that’s an even greater truth two years later, it feels like they’re hitting a wall trying to get something done without actually winding up with much of anything at all. The closest approximation that’s currently making some headway is the overblown, atmospheric sound of bands like Holding Absence, and while the issues with that sound pile up by themselves, there’s at least more of a goal than what Acres have demonstrated before. It leaves Lonely World as an album arriving in the midst of something of a crisis, where it has no idea of what it wants to do and, judging by the past track record, Acres don’t feel even nearly equipped to address it.
But even saying that, it’s not like Lonely World is a horrible album. For all the bleeding-heart angst and bombast that Acres want to convey, it’s fine, but between being a pretty clear rehash of ideas that have been done in this lane of post-hardcore time and time again, and the sort of album that’s far too lightweight and airy to have all that much emotional weight, it’s not as if this lasts longer than any similar Britrock release does these days. And when Acres are clearly trying with their windswept, cinematic intentions, that’s not a pleasant thing to have to say, but when things get caught up in their own sense of scope with much to ultimately back it up, it can come across as tremendously hollow to say the least.
To Acres’ credit though, that command of their own scope does end up being their primary asset, largely in the same way that a band like Holding Absence puts such an onus on atmosphere. Here, it’s not the same monochrome, bleak tableau that’s ultimately a bit more interesting in its usage, but the dancing pianos and strings breaking out into swathes of guitar on opener Deathbed would suggest that Acres do have that same sense of vision, and that’s definitely recognisable. The title track and Talking In Your Sleep do pull off a distinctly Britrock flavour of bombast well in soaring crescendos and the sort of boundless size that’s clearly swinging for the fences at every turn, and above all, that seems like the best place for Acres to lay their foundations. To compare them once again to Holding Absence, or even a band like Dream State, there’s not an enormous amount of variation in the actual compositions, but broad sonics can go a long way, and Acres are similarly resting in that school of thought. They’ve got the ambition, and it’s difficult to fault them for that at really any point on this album.
Moving away from any of that though, it’s not like it’s possible to put Acres in the same camp in any other way. As an album, Lonely World has almost what seems like a brittleness that prevents it from really letting loose, and while Ben Lumber will occasionally dish out some screams on a track like Medicine, the overriding feeling is one of general limpness and drained energy. Lumber is actually a good starting point for that given how indebted his delivery is to the Britrock school of performative smoulder circa 2012, but guitars that feel desperately lacking in body behind their size and production that’s coated in colourless, empty fluff only make the aforementioned size feel so much more artificial, just like so many Britrock also-rans tried and failed to pull off. At least a sense of intent gives Acres the upper hand, but it’s not like this is that much more emotionally powerful either, with such wet, cringeworthy cuts like Lullaby’s “I can’t take your pain away / But I can wish that it was mine”, or the dedication to a child on You Are Not that feels impossibly trite. It’s not like there’s not real emotions that fuel these tracks either, but the way they’re relayed amps up the saccharine in a way that an album that’s already this fluffy and often toothless doesn’t need.
Bring all of that together and it feels like any progression that Acres have made on here is pretty minimal. It’s hard to fault the effort, but the result lands with such little circumstance that it’s hard to even remember it, much less get all that irked about it. And even though the general, broad concepts are good, the praise that they deserve isn’t nearly enough to pull everything up with it, and it leaves Lonely World as a pretty unassuming and underwhelming listen. It’s not like there’s a shortage of hardcore, post-hardcore or even just alt-rock that can pull off emotionality and expanse like this with much more gusto, and in that field, Acres can feel like little more than an afterthought.
For fans of: Holding Absence, River Becomes Ocean, Young Guns
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Lonely World’ by Acres is released on 9th August on A Wolf At Your Door Records.