While we still aren’t sure if Will Butler has convinced us to take his side, his debut solo release is at times hypnotic, frightening, exciting, and every other sensation in between.
Coming as a surprising turn away from his decorated career with indie architects Arcade Fire, Will Butler’s rather short (8 track) debut Policy (2015), is characterized by a more punk-fueled angst and a rough-around-the-edges production quality. As a whole, the album maintains Arcade Fire’s legacy of multi-faceted dynamism with each track presenting an entirely different environment and sentiment with many layers of lyrical depth.
While different in attitude, both “Anna” and “Take My Side” incorporate repetition that drones on, giving way to the intense energy of an almost whiny Butler. “Son of God” is a high point in the album and calls upon similarities with the sound and style of the eccentric Neutral Milk Hotel. With lines like “as if I was not forgiven / For my sins, as if the mirror’s broken / And I would get no chance on that side again”, allusions can be traced to Arcade Fire’s album Reflektor (2013) in which the prevailing themes are uncertainty and a search for identity in a superficial and illusory society.
“What I Want” is a strange mash-up of styles. At times, Butler verges on sounding like his brother Win and with lines like “tell me what you want babe and I’ll get it / though it may take three to five business days” and use of Arcade Fire-like backing vocals conjures nostalgia for the days of Funeral (2004). “Sing to Me” marks yet another point in the album where a dramatic shift from high energy gospel punk is tempered by tender, melodic odes.
It’s a whirlwind, a carnival of sound, a circus of competing acts and ideas that leaves you reeling. You are fascinated and overwhelmed at the same time, making it difficult to hold on to one sensation for more than the duration of one track. Despite the absence of the Arcade Fire seal of artistic mastery and coherent thematic content, Policy is different in a refreshing — if not slightly confusing — way and marks an interesting start to the solo career of Will Butler.
Article by Conner Smith