Consumer Guide Album
Will Butler: Generations [Merge, 2020]
If you think the committed, dismayed songs of a white male liberal who's earned bona fides in both music and public policy are banal by definition, fine--I feel the same about, for instance, Norwegian protofascists imbuing the dark arts with musical form. But the fact is that sans Arcade Fire, Butler enlivens his post-liberal alt-rock with an array of soaring melodies and hooky falsetto choruses both impressive and compelling: "You can hide it away, hide it away, for so long" and "Tired of waiting for a better day" and "I'm getting outta here" but also "These are hard times, hard times/These are hard times, hard times/But I don't care I don't care I don't care/If I can spend them with you." The next-to-last song predicts that rather than die in a conflagration, he'll check out in a hospital surrounded by strangers who claim they're his children. The finale contemplates a George Washington remembered as both a slaveholder and a father of his country who nearly froze to death "dyin' to be free." Shit's complicated.