Policy is the first proper solo outing of Arcade Fire’s multi-instrumentalist livewire Will Butler. Out of older brother Win’s shadow, and following on from his Oscar-nominated soundtrack for the film Her, Policy is a long overdue creative outlet for the younger Butler.
The record is a rickety collection of funky electro-pop and rock ‘n’ roll ditties in the mould of Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s deliberately stripped back from the lavish style of Arcade Fire and focuses predominantly on guitar and drum tracks. One comment that has been known to dog the hugely successful and popular Arcade Fire is an air of pretension. This is something Policy leaves at the door. Genres are traversed from the off as it opens with the restlessly rocky ‘Take My Side’ and leads swiftly into the electro-pop ‘Anna’ which gyrates with funky synths.
On stage with Arcade Fire, Will Butler darts around impatiently, changing instruments and bringing a chaos to one of the most measured and assured bands of the last decade. It’s this vigour that fuels Policy, as the album swings between forms and styles - but because of this, it is less a coherent record and more a compilation of tracks. This is especially noticeable as Arcade Fire’s best records, Funeral and The Suburbs have very clearly been painstakingly and perfectly constructed, not one by one, but as a whole.
It’s certainly testament to his skill that Butler has touched upon so many styles in an eight track record, but Policy’s impact is found wanting as it doesn’t fully quench any thirst. It catalogues what Will Butler has to offer, rather than simply offering it.
The bassy ‘Something’s Coming’ pulsates with fantastic energy and feels the most akin to more recent dancefloor-facing Arcade Fire releases from Reflektor, while ‘Son Of God’ takes a folksier turn, with a hymn-like chorus giving a more composed feel than other tracks on the album. ‘Sing to Me’ has a melancholy touch with a sleepy pace and closing track ‘Witness’ sounds as upbeat as a 1950s doo-wop track. Each track on its own is fun, and while not massively original, they are interesting. They just don’t seem to cohere with one another.
A collegiate poet, there’s an absurdity behind much of Butler’s lyrics, especially true in stand-out track ‘What I Want’ which is a fantastically fast-paced bizarre love song. The lyrics are absolutely mad, and equally fascinating. It will be a divisive song. He sings:
“I'm not suggesting that we should start having kids but maybe/We could think about getting a dog or a fish tank or a jar of squids/Or maybe just a chicken coop full of alligators.”
But within the youthful foolishness of the lyrics, you’ll find a really sweet love song which will definitely raise a smile as he concludes:
“I will go along with whatever you say/I'm not a details man I just wanna/Hang around and maybe get a chance to hold your hand.”
As previously mentioned, Policy is a creative outlet for a member of one of the world’s most acclaimed bands, and with a gruelling schedule Will Butler has penned eight enjoyable tracks with a run-time that is under half an hour. Each one has its own strength, but Policy as a whole is more of a cool compilation than a game-changing record, and because of this you can still expect to see Will Butler feverishly commanding the stage with his older brother and Arcade Fire.