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Album Cover Geri Halliwell - Scizo-phonic (EMI)

Take one spice girl, a year of speculation, post-boy/girl band desire to be sophisticated and credible (that means George Michael if you're a boy, Madonna if you're a girl) add a pinch of cutting edge production, potentially embarrassing autobiography, and just the right amount of taste. What you're imagining isn't catchy enough. From the Propellerheads' groove of 'Look at Me' to the unashamedly Madonna-esque 'Mi Chico Latino' this package sings "Quality". Which is very disconcerting as that's exactly what Geri Halliwell's PR people want me to think. It's frightening to admit it, but they've done their job very well. It's damn near impossible to tell this apart from something done by "a real singer". The music is groovy, hip and catchy, lending the lie to the sophisticated vamp side of the cheap-tart Ginger Spice image. It borrows some tricks from the Propellerheads and presents Geri as the front for big-band beats and DJ shuffles. The lyrics though sometimes embarrassingly self-obsessed are also snappy, witty and walk a fine line between media savvy and tabloid slap-and-tickle. The pictures on the inlay are nice and slick and the graphics are Face-friendly.

"Scizo-phonic" is excellent pop-product, but leaves one with the feeling that Geri is an experiment in whatever chemical weapons laboratories deals in teen-sensations: A collaboration between PR image-persons and mercenary studio boffins. Its an attempt to turn Geri into Diva-lite. The success of this experiment brings us closer to the death of Real Music. If Geri can do the Propellerheads, then why do we need the Propellerheads? If Robbie Williams can do "indie" why do we need Radiohead? Ideas are forming in the sterile confines of "popmuzak PR": Billie as Nina Simone, Ronan Keating as Marilyn Manson, Dana as politician. It's all becoming frighteningly real.

But why be so cynical? Perhaps the Man digs music as much as the kids do. Perhaps this is just a good album with no strings attached: the labour of love of one pop genius called Geri Halliwell: A Brian Wilson for the Zeroes. If so, then the old adage can be changed: Behind every successful woman there's an army of stylists, production talent, songwriters and journalists, (and that's a PR term not a jibe about her weight).

by Patrick Freyne