Rychard Carrington reports on Sam Inglis – Portland Arms, Cambridge 2 April 2008

Rychard Carrington reports on Sam Inglis – Portland Arms, Cambridge 2 April 2008

I really love Sam Inglis' songwriting, to an extent I find almost embarrassing, especially considering that he is not even well-known enough to have recorded an album. Tonight he's third on the bill in the small backroom of the Portland Arms. There are about twenty people in the audience. And yet I really do rate him up there with the all-time greats. It's a challenge to articulate precisely what it is about his songs that I like so much, but, well, I suppose that's my job. Maybe I could cop out of this by just supplying some quotes, and hope you get if it for yourself:

It was like nothing happened
Except that it did
I was right when it mattered the most
You were the host
I was a gameshow contestant
You were the Pope
I was a lonely Protestant
It shouldn't have worked
But somehow it did
And our love was the rarest of things
Like rocking horse shit
We had something strange and wonderful
And I made a mess of it

(Rocking Horse Shit)

Oh, I can't stop there. For confirmation of greatness, here's the second verse:

It was right on the money
It was tight to the night
It was whiter than white till it faded
We were both green
Me jealous, you jaded
You were obscene
I was a little old lady
It shouldn't have flown
But it got off the ground
And our love was a delicate mound
Of rocking horse shit
We had something rare and beautiful
And I put my foot in it

But it doesn't come across so well without the music, does it? Anyway, Sam displays the inventive wit of an eloquent comic, employing both diction and subject matter that extend beyond the regular confines of songwriting. He can be once unusually factual, laterally creative and powerfully metaphorical:

For the high jump
Concentration is the key
For the high jump
The athlete must be prepared to find
A certain strength of mind
Knowing all the time that he or she
Is for the high jump

For the high life's not what we've been leading
The high church isn't worth believing
Highlights won't be on TV tonight

(For The High Jump)

Without resorting to the snide revelling in the cheesy that has itself become cheesy, Sam employs popular culture engagingly:

Film actress Shannon Tweed will be remembered, if at all
For her role as chief air stewardess
In 1992's erotic drama, Naked Lies
Or for her time as Playboy's Playmate of the Year
Well, you could call her cheap
She was not Meryl Streep it's true
She spent so long under the knife
But she did something with her life.

(They Did Something)

These songs use wit and humour to express original, sincere and poignant sentiments. Thus Sam avoids both earnestness and preciosity, on the one hand, and sneery facetiousness on the other. There's a nicely understated enjoyment of the absurd. Ultimately, a knowing, energised wistfulness predominates. He also uses rhyme and position of emphasis to skilled, unusual effect, that confirms his affinity with the quite brilliant Neil Innes.

Lennon and McCartney were never this good.

I haven't convinced you, have I? Well, go and listen yourself then. See Sam with his neat country-pop band The Morning People, or listen to them at home, courtesy of www.themorningpeople.com and www.myspace.com/themorningpeople.

Tonight it was just Sam himself, ‘naked but for a guitar and some clothes'. But for me it was special alright. And I sensed that the other nineteen members of the audience were quietly impressed.

Wryter: Rychard Carrington

Photo: Mick Taylor