You can listen to “Policy,” 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. Is it his fault that his first solo record so unapologetically leans into the solo project stereotype, or that it sounds decidedly how an Arcade Fire side-project is expected to sound? Frankly, yes, but in this case, that’s not really so bad.
From the very basic sonic elements to the more tangible details, Butler can’t escape the Arcade Fire influence on “Policy.” He uses the same Neil Young and Springsteen-style Americana that coursed through Arcade Fire’s early arena folk-rock albums while more directly aping his main project with songs like “Take My Side,” where he wails plenty of “Funeral”-derived lyrics.
At any rate, “Policy” is a quaint and breezy record that just happens to sound exactly like what it is – an Arcade Fire solo effort. Should the fact that Butler doesn’t take many risks or attempt to surprise his audience at all be considered when evaluating “Policy” or should it all just be taken at face value? There’s good music here regardless of who made it or where it derives from, and for an Arcade Fire fan, it’s certainly a treat. Butler shouldn’t take all that for granted, though, because it almost certainly won’t work this well next time. Solo albums are a crapshoot, and “Policy” embodies that idea more than anything else.