Will Butler released his solo debut a week early today. Policy, an eight-track record, is streaming online at Spotify, and the physical copy hits shelves next Tuesday. His new tracks may disappoint fans who are familiar with his previous work with Arcade Fire and on the soundtrack for the film Her.
Butler told Pitchfork that he had no limitations of genre on this record. He seems to ask fans in his first track if they’re going to follow him on this journey of self-exploration. “Are you gonna take my side?” he crones in “Take My Side.” That might be too demanding of fans, as he jumps from an Americana-rock-pop kind of feel (from “Son of God”) to more funky sounds, to heavy, piano-laden ballads (“Sing to Me”).
“Anna” is reminiscent of late 80s-rock, with obvious influence from artists like The Talking Heads and Violent Femmes. In “Finish What I Started,” he seems to sigh about disingenuous feelings, sounding a lot like John Lennon.
“Something’s Coming” will sound familiar to fans, reflecting Butler’s influence on Reflektor. He also sounds a lot like David Byrne in his experimental 80s phase. “What I Want” is a more rock-driven melody, with some mocking lyrics that continue throughout the album. “I’m not saying we should rush this, I’m not suggesting that we should start having kids, but maybe, we could think about getting a dog, or a fishtank, or a jar of squids,” Butler sings. This sort of ironic wording is in constant play in all of the songs in Policy.
He loses energy in the piano ballad “Sing to Me,” constantly repeating that he’s “tired” and “angry.” The whole album could probably be summed in those two words. Butler bounces right back in the last track, “Witness,” which is possibly the strongest on the album, featuring clear vocals and a peppy sound. The overall effect is discombobulating, with no axis to base the songs on.
It is obvious where Butler drew his inspiration from, but the mixture is too different and not cohesive enough to be pleasing as an album. His songs seem to play too much as copycats rather than original pieces of work. By themselves, the songs are decent. The entire album seems more like an effort of tribute to Butler’s idols rather than an expression of his personal voice.
Most of the tracks were created entirely by Butler. Jeremy Gara played drums, and various other artists provided woodwind support and vocals. If he had more creative input from others, would the music be more electric? Usually, Butler performs with his brother, Win, and Win’s wife, Regine Chassagne, along with various artists, creating an inventive and unique style. Overall, his efforts with Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire seem to be more worthy of his time.
Butler is embarking on a tour of the Midwest soon and will be playing at The Bishop
on March 24.