Release Date: Mar 10, 2015
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Not everyone in Arcade Fire approves of their mutation into a risk-taking version of U2. Or so it would appear, judging by the debut album from Will Butler, frontman Win’s lively brother. Policy is twitchy and endearingly ramshackle, channelling the can-do spirit of early-80s indie and the affability of Jonathan Richman. It’s not all in the same vein – Anna is Talking Heads-style pop, Sing to Me a ballad – but every song is blessed with Butler’s childlike dynamism.
Having been in one of today’s biggest bands for over ten years, Will Butler has earned a reputation as one of Arcade Fire’s most creative and passionate members. Whilst it’s unfair to make comparisons between his debut solo effort and his band’s material, it would be naïve not to recognise certain similarities. This is the music Will has been making for over a decade, not just playing live until now.
The less-famous brother of Arcade Fire’s Win is a mean songwriter in his own right, as evinced by his recent adventure penning a song every day for the Guardian. The 32-year-old’s solo album offers more where those came from: eight songs, recorded inside three weeks, which raucously freewheel across the genres. Opener Take My Side is rumbustious Fall/La’s-style rockabilly; Anna and Something’s Coming are giant super-catchy electro funk; Finish What I Started is a slightly rueful piano ballad.
As the lesser-known sibling of indie rock royalty, Will Butler has it made. Away from his brother Win's every-day obligations of leading one of the globe's most revered bands, the Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist can focus on his own whims without too much pressure. Which is exactly why Policy comes as such a pleasant surprise. .
If you ever see a live Arcade Fire performance (either in person or on YouTube), Will Butler is pretty easy to spot. He’s the guy who looks a lot like Win making whatever instrument he’s playing look like it’s having the same effect on him as ecstasy. The best thing about his new solo record, Policy, is how well that danceable energy comes shining through.
Policy, the debut solo record by Will Butler, a co-founding member of a band you may have heard of called Arcade Fire, is a freewheeling mash-up of different styles that is done and dusted within half an hour. That should be unsurprising to anyone who has had the pleasure of watching him play onstage with reckless abandon, switching from keyboards and synths to xylophones and guitars with palpable energy. In many ways, he personally embodies the euphoria that emanates from their music.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. In their finest moments, Arcade Fire are positively grandiose. When Win Butler is proselytizing at center stage, surrounded by the band's five core members and their touring mini-orchestra, it's hard not to be mesmerized. Unless, of course, you're of the contingent that thinks that maybe (just maybe) the scope of their act is somewhat...
When Arcade Fire plays live, Will Butler is clearly visible as the guy in the corner jamming out on the keyboards or overzealously banging on a rack tom. But when listening to the band's albums, it's nigh impossible to pick out what musical bits he's contributed. That's not a shot at Will; Arcade Fire has so many members who constantly swap instruments that the only completely distinguishable musical personalities in the band are its singers, Will's brother, Win, and his wife, Regine Chassagne.
In the Arcade Fire family, Will Butler – the multi-instrumentalist kid brother of frontman Win – comes across as the precocious ADHD toddler of the brood. He’s the hyperactive wildman throwing himself around the stage, convulsing like Iggy Pop on a winegums-and-coke bender, bawling “WOOOAH-OOAH”s like the world’s most passionate Coldplay fan and hammering away at hand-held bass drums (when he’s not lobbing it high into the lighting rig). So his debut solo album, you might assume, would be a mess of deranged terrace chants, horny gorilla drums and the sound of the mixing desk being prised out of the studio ceiling.Think again.
Though it can be hard recall amid the black tie arena shows, papier-mâché puppetry, and red carpet appearances that comprise their universe today, Arcade Fire were once a highly volatile, sometimes violent band. In their pre-Funeral genesis, the group projected a startling intensity that often left their hands bloodied and bodies bruised; those motorcycle helmets you see in old concert photos weren’t so much costume props as necessary protective gear for a band prone to using their own heads as auxiliary drum kits. And in the middle of the melee you’d often find Will Butler, younger brother of lead singer Win, bearing the mischievous grin of a corrupted choir boy.
The first solo album by the younger Butler sibling in Arcade Fire is less than half the length of his band's 2013 Reflektor. Policy is also more playful, a montage of impulses — crunchy rock, apocalyptic electro-disco, solo-John Lennon balladry — that come like whiplash. There are strains of Butler's day job in his voice (more bright and boyish than his brother Win's) and in the melodic arc of "Son of God," a slice of The Suburbs skinned down to the folk-rock jitters of the Violent Femmes.
Policy, the debut solo outing from the excitable Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist and younger brother of frontman Win Butler, casts Will Butler as the less relentlessly earnest of the two siblings, but the jarringly schizophrenic (musically) eight-song set retains his flagship band's penchant for taking on the big questions of faith, capitalism, and cultural identity in the 21st century, albeit with a decidedly less heavy hand. Like his elder brother, Butler employs a nervy vocal style that's an amalgamation of David Byrne, Tom Verlaine, and Gordon Gano, but he lacks Win's gravitas, resulting in moments of unintended vulnerability where there should have been an exclamation point. As a songwriter and arranger, Butler is solid enough, even if he comes off as more than a little ADHD.
Solo projects are always a bit of a crapshoot, but the prevailing stereotype is that they tend to come out a diluted, dispirited version of the music that everyone really wants to hear the artist make, like a parenthetical, minor distraction to the main project designed to keep everyone busy while the dust settles between big releases. Naturally this isn’t always the case, but many artists feel the need to branch out at some point in their career, even if it’s in name only, and solo albums provide the refreshing illusion of distance. You can listen to Policy, for instance, the first solo record from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, making a running comparison between the two artists’ music, but you don’t really have to—Butler seems all too eager to remind you of Funeral, Neon Bible and The Suburbs himself.
Although Win Butler stands as Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire's tenacious leader, fans have had their eyes on brother Will Butler for years now. As the multi-instrumentalist human whirlwind onstage, Will is the one who has truly delivered the frenzied live show fans have buzzed about since their Funeral days. (The first time I saw Arcade Fire, Will tripped mid-show but continued to run around the stage banging on instruments with a limp.) With such a hyperactive personality, it always seemed as though the musician was restlessly awaiting an opportunity to express his musical ideas.
What happened to Arcade Fire’s blissful sincerity? 2013’s excellent Reflektor may have been a high point for the band in terms of unfettered ambition, but the record’s pervading sense of sarcasm and self-awareness was also dangerously counterintuitive. Funeral, Neon Bible, and The Suburbs were all beautifully highfalutin albums that channeled big, universal sentiments without cracking even the slightest smirk. Reflektor, on the other hand, thumbed its nose at the notion of cultural inauthenticity.
It’s next to impossible to evaluate Will Butler’s solo debut, Policy, on its own merits. The stadium-sized behemoth incarnate in the room is Arcade Fire, the band in which he plays an ancillary role as a keyboardist/synth player and occasional drummer, overshadowed by the husband/wife duo of his older brother Win and Régine Chassagne. Yet Policy reveals the younger Butler to be something of the act’s secret weapon throughout his solo debut.
On his debut solo release, Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Will Butler fashions himself a Renaissance man. Opener Take My Side is a banging, jangly ode to early Lou Reed, and then Butler changes course for the quirky, introspective 80s electronic stomp of Anna. Throughout the 27-minute effort, an unhinged Butler takes his all-encompassing vision in any direction he pleases.
opinion byZACHARY BERNSTEIN Never has it been easier to be a brother in a rock band. Good old-fashioned fraternal animosity has gone the way of onstage fistfights and mudsharks. Out with the scuffles and feuds of the Davies, the Fogertys, and the Gallaghers; in with the peaceful coexistence of the Dessners and Devendorfs of the National, those pigeon-hating Followills of the Kings of Leon, and the Butlers of Arcade Fire.
If you’ve ever witnessed him prowl, leap and spin around the stage with Arcade Fire, swapping instruments like a magpie confronted with too many shiny things to hold at once then you’ve probably wondered why a man with the energy and musical ability of Will Butler is happy to play second fiddle to his brother, Win. Well, that wonderment can now be replaced with the question “what took you so long?”, as the younger Butler drops his solo album Policy. Unsurprisingly, for a man who seemingly has some deficiencies when it comes to attention span, Policy is a record which freewheels through a number of genres but manages to avoid sounding like a collection of songs that we deemed not good enough for Arcade Fire.
Will Butler Policy (Merge) Can't be easy holding court in Arcade Fire. You've got brother Win Butler's visionary aspirations, right next to Régine Chassagne's hurdy-gurdy dramatics, and hugely opinionated guys like James Murphy behind the boards. There's not always room to breath, so Will Butler took this window between albums to issue his very own solo disc.
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.