If Slainte did nothing more than allow Nick Poulin the time and space to get Tall Horse together, its legacy may be pretty well secure. Who knows what will eventually come of the band, but Glue, as a six-song introduction to the world, is a damn fine work filled with highly listenable, ’90s-style indie rock, with some slo-core and alt-country mixed in.
Like Toronto’s collection of bands and musicians that make up Broken Social Scene, the core of people who flitted through Slainte over the years has created a sound you can hear in Dustin Bailey Saucier’s various incarnations (new album coming soon), in bands like Worried Well and Boxes and First in Maths, and now in the three-piece Tall Horse, which gets plenty of help from the likes of Saucier and Forget, Forget’s Tyler DeVos.
Though with bassist Dom Grosso (Boxes, and any number of other projects) and drummer Devin Ivy (Lisa/Liza), Poulin has a plenty-tight core. Grosso is happy to take over the melody of a chorus and Ivy plays with a loose and elastic style that mimics Poulin’s fluctuating moods, working transitions especially well. Poulin, himself, is in the Doug Martsch (Built to Spill), Jeff Martin (Idaho) class, both somewhat downtempo and fully emotionally invested, holding in the upper register but never quite moving into a falsetto.
And he’s miserly with his lyrics, mulling lines over in his mouth, repeating them into meaninglessness, then hammering home an idea with a quick aside.
“Walk of Shame” is the epitome of his direct approach, neither judging nor particularly surprised: “Drinkin’ till you’re fucking what’s his name / Walking home that morning dressed the same.” Similarly, the open here is the best of what is a consistently great acoustic guitar sound, captured by engineer Jayson Whitmore (his brothers are the guys in Caro Khan) at his Penumbra Recordings. Then Ivy counts in on his sticks and the Patia Maule violin and swirling Saucier electric guitar are just the right kind of post-drunk remorse, miserable and a little bit clumsy, but damn if that wasn’t a good time.
Tack on Maule’s backing vocals and extra contribution of tasteful piano near the finish, plus a meandering guitar solo and Grosso’s tossed off bass lick to close the piece out, and you’ve got one hell of a song, a piercing and bold and straightforwardly honest piece of sincerity.
As with Wes Harding’s work, it’s that cracked-chest, open-veined sentiment you really respond to here. When Poulin broods in “Sour” that “you think I taste sour, but no one’s as sour as you,” it is less bitter than matter-of-fact, and when he notes in “Old Gun Shot” that, “I want to take you out with one old gun shot to the brain / Because I love you,” it really does seem affectionate, with the “because” clipped and cut short like he doesn’t want to admit it.