Will Butler, Policy, album review: A punk-funk mix that isn’t quite a blazing success

Policy is enjoyable enough, but one hopes that for its follow-up, Butler takes time to find the most accomplished realisations of his material

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The Independent Culture

Will Butler is more usually found alongside his brother Win and their bandmates in Arcade Fire, where his ebullient presence – charging around the stage, bouncing behind keyboards, flinging drums high into the air – is the most engagingly animated physical expression of the group’s musical potency.

That likeably quicksilver personality is reflected in this solo debut from the multi-instrumentalist, on which he darts restlessly from style to style, quickly capturing each song without over-working it, before moving on to the next. It’s a gadfly approach that, while giving Policy its charm and immediacy, also leaves its shortcomings uncovered: more than once here, I found myself wishing Butler had lingered a little longer over a track, snagging the details of its construction, or the impromptu lyricism that leaves in lines like “If I could fly, you know I’d kick the shit out of some birds” and especially the grating reference to “a great recipe for pony macaroni” that mars “What I Want”, the guitar thrash that most closely resembles Arcade Fire.

Take My Side” opens proceedings with a blend of primitive garage-punk chording and keening counterpoint harmonies that recalls The Kinks; but it’s no sooner faded than “Anna” hurtles off in the direction of electropop funk, with heartbeat drums and spindly synth lines buttressed by staccato horn stabs. Then he switches tack again for the plodding piano ballad “Finish What I Started”, a lament about his inability to articulate feelings.

The changes continue – acoustic strummage (“Son of God”), squalling disco punk-funk (“Something’s Coming”), bustling piano troubadour (“Witness”) – through to the end, leaving one impressed that one musician could cover such breadth of ground in so short a time, but slightly disappointed that in almost every case, the songs fall short of their potential. Policy is enjoyable enough, but one hopes that for its follow-up, Butler takes time to find the most accomplished realisations of his material.

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