Pop Albums: The Spice Girls Spiceworld (Virgin CDV 2850)

The merciful brevity (39 minutes) of Spiceworld hides, behind the sinister imperialism of its title, a rather more mundane tale, one in which The Spice Girls' notional Girl Power is ruthlessly reined-in to fit the confines of old-fashioned, pre-pop "all-round family entertainment". They may have started their career with a bout of fairly risque pop-rap, but nothing as threatening or potentially offensive as rap is allowed to disturb the prematurely mumsy, suburban surface of this second album.

Instead, it's a perky but charmless parade of pop pastiches, from the opening pseudo-salsa of "Spice Up Your Life" and the pseudo-Motown stomp of "Stop" through to the lifeless flamenco stylings of "Viva Forever" and a closing big-band debacle, "The Lady is a Vamp", which they're probably already regretting. Something for all the family, in other words, so long as none of the family prefers rock (indie or otherwise), rave or rap, or anything marginally taxing. Their Spiceworld, it seems, is one from which those fringes have been ruthlessly eliminated, and along with them any faint glimmer of musical interest The Spice Girls may once have borne.

What makes this all the sadder, though, is that this process has not been imposed in the usual manner by faceless management demons, but - judging by their co-composer credits - is one in which The Spice Girls themselves have fully colluded: a rare case of a turkey voting for Christmas, or the Christmas market, at least.

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