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In their finest moments, Arcade Fire are positively grandiose. When Win Butler is proselytizing at center stage, surrounded by the band's five core members and their touring mini-orchestra, it's hard not to be mesmerized. Unless, of course, you're of the contingent that thinks that maybe (just maybe) the scope of their act is somewhat... bloated. The band launched a career from a euphoric dystopian vision with 2004's Funeral and everything they've released since has topped either the charts or critics' "album of the year" listings--or both. Throughout Arcade Fire's tenure as indie's most acclaimed (and successful) group, multi-instrumentalist Will Butler, younger brother of frontman Win, has stood just outside of the spotlight. Policy sees him striking out on his own, far from the spectacle and grandeur of orchestro-rock.

The record opens with 'Take My Side', a stripped-down, rollicking blues that bears more than a passing resemblance to The White Stripes guitar/drums/vocals formula. From the get go, it's obvious that string sections and multi-part harmonies aren't going to factor into Butler's approach. But with a name like Policy, you'd expect him to be tackling a few socio-political themes in much the same way Arcade Fire has. Sure enough, last week, in the lead up to the record's release, Butler wrote and released a song a day based off of news articles found on The Guardian. Monday February 22 saw him tackle the Greek debt crisis with 'Clean Monday' and later in the week he turned his attentions to the water shortage in Sao Paulo with 'You Must Be Kidding'. Unorthodox as the promotional tactic is, it's surprising that Butler can write about current events without wholly resorting to preaching or pedantry.

To his credit, there is also something universal and accessible about Policy. Maybe there are political commentaries on offer here, but he isn't heavy-handed with them. Ultimately, the album's take on familiar American musical tropes is perhaps more salient than its lyrical content. 'Finish What I Started' is a simple piano ballad imbued with Neil Young's early '70s melancholy. 'Son of God' is a fuller-sounding track--featuring handclaps, female backup singers and a sunny appeal for the messiah's guidance. At just under three minutes long, it isn't masquerading as an epic, and neither is the album itself. Butler's songs are short and straightforward, weaving between genres, staying jut long enough to prove his proficiency in his chosen form.

'What I Want' boasts a mixture of power chords and spacey surf guitar sounds. The combination is high energy, the perfect backdrop for Butler to start experimenting with tongue in cheek lyrics. "Tell me what you want babe/and I will get it" he begins, armed with a caveat: "but it might take three to five business days." He isn't totally lampooning modern life so much as questioning his relationship to it. His diction is suitably ramshackle--at times more ranting than singing--and it's at this timbre that his voice most resembles Win's. An anarchic choral backdrop takes the final half of the song into bombastic Arcade Fire territory, but Butler doesn't linger there long.

'Sing To Me' is another piano ballad, this one even more sparse and vulnerable than the first. "Sing to me," Butler croons, "because I'm tired/And I don't wanna hear no more." His disillusionment is palpable, but never overstated. Ever the chameleon, Butler makes a foray into early rock n' roll rhythms--think '50s vibes and pounding piano chords-- with 'Witness', the album's final track.

At only eight songs long, Policy feels like a series of pit stops in different genres with Butler acting as a tour guide. He never carves out a distinctive sound for himself, opting instead to show off the breadth of his musical abilities--it's impressive, yes, but noncommittal. The album was recorded in the span of a single week at New York's Electric Lady Studio, and though it's far from slapdash, it doesn't have the kind of thematic cohesion of any of Arcade Fire's work. On a technical level, every single song Butler released as part of his Guardian-inspired endeavour was good, but there's no denying that he's merely flexing his musical muscles. Is Policy a similar exercise? Or an effort at establishing an artistic identity separate from one of the most successful bands in the world? Critical tongues will undoubtedly wag, but postulation isn't worth it. Butler has fashioned a deft and skilful, if not totally compelling, record. Policy is not an anti-Arcade Fire album in any obvious sense, but Will Butler certainly makes comparison a difficult thing to do.

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This review was submitted by 405 User Emily Reily on March 25th - she awarded it an 8/10. As is tradition with user reviews, nothing has been edited, or removed.

On his debut, "Policy," singer-songwriter Will Butler attempts to scramble out from underneath the behemoth shadow of indie-rock super group Arcade Fire.

But the dreamy rock feeling that flows so freely from his previous band does not carbon-copy itself throughout "Policy."

"Someone please, tell me what my name is" he laments on the Lennon-esque "Finish What I Started" as Butler stretches his legs to find his own identity.

It's clear that Butler meant to bring a whimsical quality to "Policy," as it possesses elements of alternative, rock, indie-pop, rockabilly and American folk-rock.

"Take My Side," is a fun introduction to the album, declaring there will be few dark, introspective pockets on the album. "Sing To Me," with its dramatic piano and organ notes, is the only real brooding song on the record, but is also the bluesiest and most heartfelt.

"What I Want" keeps a tongue-in-cheek humor, while "Anna" has an infectious, brisk beat led by a bright synthesizer melody; Butler easily evokes that famous Elvis hiccup. The elementary lyrics on "Anna" keeps things light as well.

Will Butler also sounds a lot like his brother, Win, and almost uncomfortably so, at least on "Something's Coming." But Will Butler's familiar vocals are not what make that song the best of the bunch. It's the hot blast of a disco-rock beat paired with an unusual deep, fuzzy bass and exuberant piano that makes it the catchiest on "Policy."

While it's true that Butler is still exhibiting sounds of his previous band, there's enough of his boisterous personality on "Policy" to elicit welcome surprises.