SPICE GIRLS Spice (Virgin)
This may well be the first album review to be conducted from within a flak jacket but I dont care. On a purely musical level (and is there any other as important?) "Spice" is classic pop music in the grand tradition that runs before and beyond The Supremes to Saint Etienne. It may be instantly and unaccountably familiar - if youve spent more than forty minutes in a shopping centre during the last six months then you will have heard this album in its entirety already - but theres enough in the way of rattling good tunes such as the piledriving "Who Do You Think You Are" and quirky touches ("Mama" blatantly steals the heavenly riff from Talking Heads "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)") to lift it head and shoulders above the production line pap with which detractors would happily dismiss it. And how can you argue with a backup squad of session muso types whove graced albums by Bjork, The Blue Nile(!), Everything But The Girl, Massive Attack, Passengers, Prefab Sprout and Suede? Added to which, "Spice" cheerfully exposes certain other albums of recent vintage with popular pretensions (ironic or otherwise) as the atonal tuneless drivel they so obviously are.