Q: Which Spice Girl is currently nicknamed "Old Spice"?
A: Which one isn't?
Hah! No, seriously. I'll tell you what you want, what you really really want. You want to go beyond partisan pop prejudices and give these soccer moms their due. Forget that they gave Simon Fuller a power base to inflict battalions of bland Idols on the world and forgive that the Spice's version of "Girl Power" turned suffragettin' into a Bratz cartoon. Maybe enough time has passed that you can hear "Wanna Be" as the precursor to Lady Sovereign. Or that the Spice Girls could now pass into history as Bananarama-plus-2, the best hope for a Silver Convention for the '90s. Or as a friend put it in 1996: "They're like the KISS of all chick groups, man!"
Listening to this collection, which is surprisingly lumbered with ballads, you're reminded as to why Alvin, Simon & Theodore never went on to have convincing solo careers either. No one here has a voice that doesn't sound like the shakiest American Idol audition unless it's glumped alongside four similar timbres, a failing that the Pussycat Dolls sidestepped completely by matching the genuinely talented Nicole Scherzinger with a buncha pole dancers. No surprise, then, that the Spices sound best in the anonymous disco surroundings of "Who Do You Think You Are" (eat your heart out, Bo Donaldson!), the faux Motown of "Stop" and "Spice Up Your Life," the official "Livin' la Vida Loca" for limeys.
Despite not following the own sage advice from "Move Over" ("Generation X, don't do over"), they were tempted to retrace old glories for the recent shoot-me-now charity single "Headlines (Friendships Never End)." But, to be, um, charitable, these gals couldn't even stay friends long enough to continue their world tour through another four-and-a-half continents ... which means that friendships can be put on hold indefinitely.
To be even more charitable, you'll note that I did try hard not to end this review with anything about Victoria Beckham's skinny legs, even if they do make her look like a Stretch Armstrong doll pulled too many times in the wrong direction.
Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.