Pet Sounds: Spiceworld

Hysterical musical mayhem.

The Spice Girls.
Resistance is futile.

Spiceworld

The Spice Girls

Virgin

1997



At the ear-splittingly loud height of The Spice Girls dominance of the world, Spiceworld (and how corporate a title is that?) was probably as good as it was going to get after the chaotic debut of the Girl Power squawkers, just before their slightly fractious demise and splitting into their individual parts. Partially reunited not so long ago, the ladies have continued to gyrate their way around the planet to the satisfaction of their dedicated fans (i.e. gay men of a certain age and young women who should know better), and it is this album that The Spice Girls have been leaning on for support as they have done so.


Comprising 10 tracks linked by a feel-good, radio-friendly ethos, Spiceworld contains the hits Spice Up Your Life (fun, good to dance to), Stop (hummable, good to sing to), Too Much (the undoubted diamond in the rough here) and Viva Forever (gloomy, heavy on the harmonies). It’s not that Spiceworld is uninspiring (which is it), poorly produced (which it is also) or derivative (every hook is wheeled out here; disco, soul, handbag, jazz, show tunes, you name it, the girls coo over them all), rather it is the descending sense, listening to this album, that the whole thing is so half-hearted.


OK, so The Spice Girls were neither as excitingly, messily authentic in their devotion to their craft as The Go Go’s, nor as polished chartists as The Bangles, but they had a certain charm and wit, didn’t they? So where is that shouty, thigh-stroking (stop it, Victoria) alco-pops fuelled-charm on this album? Not buried under the knob-twiddling of the guys in the box obviously, nor moulded into Scandi-pop shapes for the benefit of the international markets either. Instead, what Spiceworld offers is a sort of contract obligation scheduled in-between the photoshoots and chat show appearances that were always part of the The Spice Girls process.


Backed by such brainstorming whiteboard scribbled slogans as United Colours of Spice (Dear God), She’s Gotta Have it (saucy), Dynamite Diva (oh no) and Choose Life, Choose Spice (yes, really) The Spice Girls in the sleeve notes for Spiceworld look nothing less than bored, bemused and befuddled.


Shape The Vibe! No thanks.


Still, look on the bright side: You could always buy from the promotional materials offered up by those same sleeve notes; a calendar, a Girl Power watch, a Spice Cam, three kinds of mugs, a book and a Polaroid Spice light (e-bay warning, e-bay warning).


Or not, as the case may be.


Pop, when it’s good, is something to be cherished, danced and cried to in equal measure. Few tears are likely to be shed over this bolted together collection of near-jingles, which is a real shame, as this particular all-girl group remains one of pop’s greatest confections.


Still, it’s not all bad news. Too Much remains as bright and evocative as it always was, and a moment of bliss amid an annoying headache of an album.


Sorry ladies.

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