If Policy is looking to establish some fenceposts for a Will Butler solo release—it’s his first his-name record after a decade spent in the Arcade Fire—its parameters prove willfully difficult to define: a restless record that’s equal-parts pleasingly inventive and kinda overcooked, a slapdash, kitchen-sink run of rock ‘n’ roll that’s very much in a hurry to embrace sounds much less densely layered than those in Butler’s other band.
Which isn’t a bad thing: starting in raucous country territory (“Take My Side,” which recalls the more uppity parts of Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker), Policy traverses dustbowl grooves (“Something’s Coming”), hints of ’50s bubblegum (“Witness”), and head-bowed piano revelations (“Sing to Me”). There are a few misses: “What I Want” struggles through a stream-of-consciousness-meets social-critique lyrics (“Tell me what you want baby, and I will get it/ though it might take 3-5 business days, maybe longer”). “Anna” rides a steady-drumbeat and some digital blips to nowhere in particular.
But: Butler, freed from the responsibilities of a band a decade into its career, is just joyfully throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. Policy feels like it was made without a filter, which takes a certain amount of musical fearlessness, and to its credit, the record often encapsulates that freed-up sense of joy.