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. Defiant opener "Take My Side" is pure Strokes-ian proto-punk peppered with honeyed girl group "shoo-la-la-la's," the icy "Anna" stalks its quarry against a backdrop of coiled new wave austerity, and the warmly lit ballads "Finish What I Started" and "Sing to Me" invoke names like Dennis Wilson and Father John Misty, but what Policy evokes most of all is Arcade Fire. The fiery and fractured, emotionally charged indie punk foundations of "Son of God" and "What I Want" sound like they were born out of the same sessions that produced The Suburbs' "Month of May," and the hypnotic "Something's Coming," with its psych-kissed, deep pocket groove and elliptical melodies, feels like the lost B-side of Reflektor's "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)." For an album that clocks in at just under 28 minutes, Policy manages to drop a ton of ideas, but if often feels more like a purge than a mission statement; the ballast of being in one of the world's biggest (both figuratively and literally) bands, and while Butler may have the chops to captain his own ship, he'll need to put some more water behind him before he can successfully steer the beast into port.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger