Will Butler’s solo debut, Policy, is a conundrum. Its strengths are also its weaknesses.
Butler whips through eight songs and nearly as many musical styles in under a half hour. He cuts on a dime without hesitation. The punky “Take My Side” borrows a little country twang and cedes to the grimy synth and horn filled “Anna” which then gives way to mopey ballad “Finish What I Started.” That’s just the first 10 minutes.
The thrill of these shifts overshadows the songs themselves. Like a comedian performing impressions in rapid succession, Policy is more memorable for the feat of switching than the content filling the space between the transitions. The lurching back and forth provides a rush, but it’s also exhausting. Keeping up with Butler can leave the brain swimming like a long day of multi-tasking.
Butler’s limitless energy contributes to the album’s meticulous production. There’s a lot going on — including horns, winds, back-up singers, electronics and keyboards — and it all fits together perfectly. These songs could easily be a mess with all of the elements to account for, but like an OK GO video it all falls into place.
Yet for all that work, Policy may end up being remembered first and foremost for the phrase “pony macaroni.” Butler’s goofiness adds an enjoyable tone, but may ultimately cause listeners to easily forget about him.
Will Butler will play The Pinhook in Durham with Teen on Sunday, March 15. Tickets are $13.