Click to follow

The latest arms race between the music industry's superpowers sees their scientists working around the clock to fuse the Spice Girls' girl-gang appeal with the bolshy angst-pop of Natalie Imbruglia and the indie cred of an autonomous live band. Two companies have reached the testing stage: there have been singles from 21st Century Girls, who work for Spice svengali Simon Fuller, and Thunderbugs, who have been saddled with the world's worst name. But Columbia is the first company to press the red button and launch an album. It's a misfire. Hepburn's production is unstintingly professional - I'd be interested to know how much input the Hep cats themselves had - and "Bugs" and "I Quit" deliver the required payload, probably because they were written by Phil Thornally, composer of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn". But Hepburn have no distinct personality of their own. The singer's accent and vocabulary swing from London to America and back, while the group's positioning between the kiddy and grown-up markets means that on one hand they sound twee and weedy and on the other they're more world-weary and lacklustre than four teenagers should ever be. Bring on the next model ...