BY FRED MILLS
Arcade Fire fans expecting something Arcade-esque from Will Butler will likely be disappointed, or at least thrown off, by Butler’s solo debut. Although he has an upper-register singing style that will recall older brother and fellow A.F. member Win Butler, only one track, out of the dozen that make up Policy, can really be likened to the anthemic fare that is Arcade Fire’s stock-in-trade. That the exuberant, shouty “What I Want” isn’t even close to being the best tune here potentially bodes well for the younger Butler, who already notched a shared Oscar nomination (with A.F. collaborator Owen Pallett) for Best Original Score for 2013’s Her.
Policy is actually all over the musical map, and indeed Butler is a former college radio deejay who knows his genres. There’s thumping, Nuggets-style garage rock (“Take My Side”); synth-driven ‘80s electro-pop (the Cars-meets-Human League “Anna”); stately piano balladry (“Finish What I Started”); strummy-folky upbeat indie rock (“Son of God”); even a moody, atmospheric dirge (“Sing to Me”) which sounds like it might have originally been intended for a film.
This scattershot, kitchen-sink approach is simultaneously the album’s charm and undoing, however. For as catchy and hooky as his material can be, the haphazard production leaves it sounding somewhat listless, Butler not so much forging a unique identity as coming across at times like just another indie forager in search of a Pitchfork review.
Still, when he’s on, he’s definitely at the top of his game, distinguishing himself apart from the mothership that pays his bills; the aforementioned “Take My Side” and “Anna” in particular illustrate his considerable gifts as a pop craftsman. Think of the album as a calling card, then, and the promising start of what we can only hope will be a fruitful solo career.
DOWNLOAD: “Take My Side,” “Son of God”