Album Reviews

Policy – Will Butler

Final Rating: 8.2/10

“Take out the knife. Take out the knife. Sharpen it twice.”

This Mack The Knife-like lyric, that comes from an equally loony song, is a piece that sets the mood of Policy. This album is a little bit insane underneath its charm. It is the work of a creeping sniper, and that’s Will Butler. Known for his behaviors at shows with Arcade Fire, Butler has become more and more recognized as a separate name since he scored an Academy Award nomination (along with Owen Pallett) for the soundtrack to Spike Jonze’s Her. With his solo debut Policy, Butler can easily be likened to the science fiction romance film. He is captivatingly awkward in some ways, but full of heart and spirit in all of them.

On Policy, lyrics sometimes reference themselves. To refer back to the knife lyric, we are commanded to sharpen the blade according to the number of times it was mentioned to bring it out. In Something’s Coming, we are told to listen. Once we do, we are interrupted with gibberish and mumbles of which we cannot make any sense of. Many of these lines are of a daydreamer slamming in his journal in the middle of class, and the music plays along with this notion. Parts are abruptly shoved into the mix (always welcome, though), and it is difficult to be able to predict virtually all of what will happen here. Policy is over before you know it, but it is refreshing even in a slight sense. It feels like a taster of what Will Butler can surely offer.

Policy, while very Butler in tone, is still not without its influences. There are moments (like Son of God) that recall the unity Fleetwood Mac had. What I Want (a great standout song) is almost Buzzcocks like in nature with its speed, drive and pop sensibilities. With a stroke here and a dab there, of course many parts are used to make up Policy. Butler’s been in Arcade Fire for over a decade, and obviously his first solo album will not only bring that history with him, but the history he’s clung to as a musician thus far. Policy is still far from most Arcade Fire albums, though (however, not moments specifically, as you can hear a dash of some songs off The Suburbs here). Butler did a great job making this album very much his own, even with the tributes and signatures. 

Will Butler is slowly revealing his capabilities to the world outside of Arcade Fire, and Policy is a noticeable release. We could have certainly done with more. At under half an hour in length, Policy plays its piece and then jumps out of the chair before we can judge it. The line “I am so scared of what is waiting through the door” is shivered in the middle of Sing To Me, and it’s clear that Butler is still a bit shy (even with his stage chaos and his off kilter lyrics). We get a bit of Will Butler in this album, but we could certainly use more. As a first album, Policy is quite bold. It is varied enough and stuffed with the right amount of effort. If we got a bigger release, however, Butler would very well have the chance to blow us away like he is truly capable of.

 When we end with the 60’s girl group inspired Witness, possibly the greatest song on the album, we still feel like the show could go on. We don’t feel unfulfilled, We just feel even more eager. Policy is catchy and bizarre and a pleasant album altogether. No tracks are weak at all, but you will surely find your own favorites with the amount of diversity here. We were given a wonderful look into Will Butler’s brain, and we can only wonder what Butler has in store next time (it wouldn’t hurt to dive deeper).

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.