You may recognise Will Butler as a member of Arcade Fire and the younger brother of their frontman Win Butler. Now that it’s been two years since Reflektor and there’s no new album in sight, Will has taken it upon himself to make a real start at his solo career. But just because he’s from such a recognised band with a defined style doesn’t mean he’s channelling them here.
Instead, Policy is an album powered by American music of the past, covering a variety of styles of rock music, ranging from the straight rock ‘n’ roll of Take My Side and the funkier vibes in Anna to the psychedelic Something’s Coming with its constant screeching drone of guitar in the background and discordant elements. Mixed with the quiet Sing to Me and mid-tempo pace of Finish What I Started, there’s a lot covered here.
The sheer variety of the album is actually something to be admired, considering it’s only eight tracks and clocks in at just under half an hour. The album finishes about as quickly as it starts. Nothing sticks out as overstaying its welcome on the album, and with any extra tracks or longer songs it may have changed the attitude of the album entirely. It’s a perfect number of songs for the concept.
The music itself isn’t quite as perfect, for both intentional and unintentional reasons. When pinpointing at the intentional imperfections, the album resonates with the vibe of being recorded live and without rehearsal rather than being heavily edited, giving the rock ‘n’ roll vibe that much more emphasis. It especially works on upbeat songs like Anna and Witness.
The unintentional imperfections mostly revolve around songs that just don’t match the quality of the others. Something’s Coming takes a while to get your head around, with the mixture of the screeching guitars, plodding bass and lively piano playing struggling to work together yet not coming to any agreements. Additionally, Sing To Me slows the album down a little too much near the end, more so than Finish What I Started did at the front of the album. It’s almost a disservice to Witness, the high-energy ending track that almost falls off due to its precursor but punches back through with its call-and-response chorus and generally infectious melody.
It’s the upbeat songs that save the album. The aforementioned Witness and What I Want especially sound at home on such a short album, keeping the energy high rather than dragging it out. Son Of God and Take My Side’s general rock sound work well both opening the album and marking the halfway point, and Finish What I Started fits the general mood perfectly in comparison to Sing To Me.
There are a lot of strong songs on Policy. The issue is that they’re dragged down by a few that are at odds with the majority, and while it might not have presented a problem on a longer album the short run time suffers due to their presence. But the album is still worth a listen. It’s guaranteed to have something for fans of rock, and Will Butler has both the voice and the attitude to sell the music perfectly. Policy isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely a strong debut.