The Callum Easter TV Special
starring Callum Easter
featuring Alice Rabbit, Dan Navarro Lorenzo, These People, Todd Various, Charmaine Brocklebank, Mistress Inka, J&P - The Leith Congregational Choir
Perhaps it’s a sign of my age, but when I think of a Saturday evening variety show I think immediately of the Muppets, or Morecambe and Wise. Larger than life and cartoonish in nature. A staple of my childhood, a gathering of the generations around the television with a spread of sandwiches, cakes and a seemingly bottomless teapot on hand for refreshments. Nothing however stands out from those shows, I remember them more for their context than I do their content and so, it is with some trepidation that I’m about to sit down and watch ‘The Callum Easter TV special’. Featuring songs from the 2021 Album ‘System’ and described, reassuringly as “.. how music TV could be, powered by absinthe and love and self-disgust, instead of ego and career.” The Callum Easter TV special is here to subvert expectations, and leave you waiting till later to make a start on the sandwiches.
Opening with an aged portable TV in the darkness, the ominous sounds of feedback filling the void, as screen lights up with static and the star of the show welcomes you to his special. Following the format of a traditional variety show is about as close to comfortable nostalgia as you are going to feel for the next 20 minutes or so.
As a slow, pulsating backing track plays, we are introduced to our supporting cast and it becomes quickly apparent that this special exists somewhere music video and avant garde film, its variety but not as we know it. The darkness is claustrophobic, seemingly never ending, spotlights are used to great effect during the roll call and with the introduction of the man himself, we’re finally given a sense of space as a thrown cake makes contact with a wall in the darkness, this offers little in the name of comfort but does give you space to breath. Occasional cut backs to the TV during the sequence adding to the sense that you need to pay attention, this is not passive entertainment.
And so, we move onto the purpose of this TV special, a showcase of what are a handful of exemplary tracks interspersed with discordant pieces to camera and performances from the supporting cast. Opening with the surprisingly upbeat title track ‘System’. With honky tonk piano and a swell of backing vocals provided by Leith congregational choir, who are for the moment trapped inside a monitor, the bewildering tone now established for the special, it’s easier to surrender to the experience than try and understand it. Accompanied by a troupe of scantily clad backing dancers the use of lighting and muted colours subtly place the emphasis on the music as Easter directs his gaze directly down the camera piercing into you, the song rising into a crescendo imploring you to “fuck the system” ending abruptly, silence filling the space where there should be applause. Next up is ‘Little Honey’, over a blanket of distorted guitars Easter is joined by the striking presence of drag queen Alice rabbit, delivering the spoken intro before performing what might be a lip synced duet. An infectious song that lies somewhere between Glam rock and Mungo Jerry. It’s difficult not to smile and feel that if you were actually there, this would be one of ‘those’ nights you can never explain to anyone who wasn’t there. With An unexpected slowing of pace for the third track ‘Be Somebody’, itself a deceptively simple song which seeps into your subconscious. Set against the backdrop of a big screen accompanied by an ominous, gun wielding dancer there's an ominous sense that this is building up to something, but the climax never comes, you are not going to relax into this,you have to stay engaged. After a brief comeback of the portable TV with what can only be described as an uncomfortable comedian, we’re into the final song ‘What You Think?’. Another surprisingly upbeat track juxtaposed against the jarring visuals of someone being whipped by a dominatrix. A final ‘thank you’ and the credits roll, nowhere cast bow, no flowers just a confused awkward silence.
It's impossible to summarise, or capture in a description quite what ‘The Callum Easter TV Special’ is. It’s something that to experience and fully appreciate you need to watch yourself. Both in terms of the special itself and Easters music it’s hard to draw comparisons. Whilst we all have our influences, it’s how we use them that makes the impact and Callum Easter makes them his own, he focuses you onto his interpretation of them to a degree that you don’t have cause to seek the similarity or draw attention to it. As a piece of Art, this TV special certainly makes an impact. I’m still not quite sure what I’ve watched, but I’ve already made sure I’ve got easy access to his music so I can listen to it again later, so it’s definitely working. I highly recommend setting aside the time to take this one in, but maybe not on a Saturday teatime with the kids. (four stars)
Callum Easter TV Special features music from the Callum Easter LP, System.