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Josh T. Landow

CD of The Week

Week of 11/16/20

    Will Butler - Generations (Merge)

    Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Will Butler had a pretty big shadow to come out from under when he released his first solo album, Policy, in 2015. Not only from one of the biggest bands of the past decade but from his older brother Win, who serves as lead singer and frontman of his main gig. However, Will was up to the challenge, as Policy was full of great tunes that felt looser and lighter than much of Arcade Fire's output, while still clearly in the band's musical wheelhouse. On his second solo effort, Generations, Butler continues to carve out a respectable catalog on his own.

    Generations is forged by the dark times of the past four years, which you hear in the crankiness of opener "Outta Here" and the frustration boiling over in the noisy "I Don't Know What I Don't Know." On the swinging sing-along "Close My Eyes," he sings, "I know you're gonna come around and stand by me / But I'm tired of standing while the world's dissolving." Electronic wobbly production tricks surround the of-the-moment sentiment of "Hard Times" – "These are hard times / But I don't care when I'm with you."

    Butler is most at ease playing the synthesizer, which is why you hear them creating the grooves of "Outta Here" and "Promised," not too far from some of the sounds of Arcade Fire's Everything Now. But there's also the totally organic, strumming, handclap-along single "Surrender" with its call-and-response backing vocals.

    "Not Gonna Die" is a powerful rebuke to racist scaremongering about migrant caravans, foreign terrorists and any other groups used by the right-wing to frighten Americans. Generations wraps up with the ambitious, nearly 7-minute closer "Fine," which leaps between tales of George Washington and Butler's own family lineage.

    Butler has the same yearning in his voice as his big brother but with a bit more nervous energy, lending Generations an extra level of anxiety. But it's totally understandable on an album full of fears facing his own, as well as future, generations.
    Review by Joey O.

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