First Impressions: Will Butler, “Policy”

policyFor me, Arcade Fire is a band that has delivered diminishing returns, even though all of their albums are fine and worthwhile. Still, the shaggy, underdog energy of Funeral is, in my mind, still the unchallenged high water mark in their catalog, outstripping the top-heavy thematic ambitions of Neon Bible, the curiously subdued and genteel The Suburbs, and the Very Serious Boogie of Reflektor. The problem with the band, such as it is, is that they are increasingly insistent on making Important Albums that tackle weighty political and spiritual themes; their calling cards are depth and sophistication, not the rugged enthusiasm and anarchic energy on which they first built their name.

So when I tell you that Policy, the debut solo album from AF member Will Butler, is a bit slight—it’s only 27 minutes long—and that it’s not deep and sophisticated, but rather is punkish and nervy and rough around the edges, you’ll understand that I mean all of those things as compliments. I’m not saying it’s a better album than any of these Arcade Fire jawns, but it certainly has an appeal, a charm that’s hard to deny.

In fact, I have been playing it quite a bit. It’s shambolic, the lyrics endearing and funny but pretty rough, the piano ballads disrupting the considerable momentum achieved by the careening energy and frayed nerves on display elsewhere. And I love it for all of those reasons.

It’s not a great statement, and its memory fades about as soon as its 27 minutes are up—but it happens to be a great deal of fun, which is not nothing. Not nothing at all.

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