Once upon a time there was a whimsical, backward-facing tendency in British life, with a habit of surfacing just as things were at their shiniest. The Beatles released Sgt Peppers, for instance, and the world proclaimed a revolution: but some took a subtler view. George Melly, a man with an interest in fashion, the texture and the cut of things, noticed right away how old Pepperland looked. The cavalry twill, the black-and-white photos, the circus posters, the childrens’ drawings – this was as much retreat as advance. The golden youth of Britain reached back into playful memory, storing up an attic chest of precious bygones against a rupture they had helped begin.
The Beatles weren’t alone – its childish streak is the first thing anyone notices about UK psychedelia. But if childhood could be appropriated by the hippies, the process could work in reverse. Primary school pop, thirty years later, could assume the grown-ups weren’t listening and borrow a few of the sixties’ better ideas.
So the most striking thing for me about B*Witched’s second single – the reason for that whole intro, in fact – is its beautifully brazen nod to the Beatles: the “it’s wonderful to be here….” part of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” caught and flipped into the pre-chorus of “Rollercoaster”. They even keep the word “thrill” as an anchor. It’s as blatant and confident as anything the Gallagher’s tried, and the motivation is the same – if nobody’s using a good idea right now, and you can build a brilliant pop song out of it, then why not?
Is it a brilliant song, though? Not quite, but it’s a very good one. Past the naff spoken intro – I can believe they’re doing this, just not that they’re leaving it in – it’s more charming than “C’Est La Vie”, and only a little less infectious. The obligatory jig interlude feels less bolted on this time, and the hustle of the debut is replaced by a lazier, warmer vibe. Best of all are the little bonus hooks behind the prechorus (the unnerving, and very psych-pop “just a game… go insane…”) – and chorus (“don’t wanna wait for you no more!”). They are generous touches in a record already doing well for hooks, and help dispel the air of brand-building and hustle around the debut. Not everything here is so well-crafted – “We’re not nice we’re cold as ice” is awful, but on the other hand “We’ve grazed our knees and no-one’s to blame” is a great, evocative little line. In a season of bright, sparky pop number ones, this song isn’t the most important or ambitious of the breed, but it might sneak in as the best. “Rollercoaster” chalks hopscotch squares over Pepperland, and reclaims bubblegum for the kids.