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EXTRA SPICY

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You have every right to be confused. They’re U.K. based; they sing; they wear shrunken tees, microminis, and say adorable British-y things like ”I fancy that bloke” and ”Don’t let them catch you with your knickers down.”

Of course! Must be! These girls are definitely the…oh…they’re All Saints, the latest nympho-pop potpourri plucked from England’s spice rack.

”It’s annoying,” says Saint singer Melanie Blatt (who must not be confused with Spice Girl Mel B.). ”Wherever we go, you know, it’s ‘four girls with cleavage from England — must be the Spice Girls.’ But we’re different.” Forget that they look spicy or that none of them play an instrument, or even that they have fans in Buckingham Palace. The group — Blatt, 22, Shaznay Lewis, 22, and sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton, 23 and 25 — whose debut album All Saints was released in the U.K. last November in the aftermath of Spicemania, are to the Spice Girls what the Stones were to the Beatles. Or more accurately, what the Bangles were to the Go-Go’s.

The truth is, All Saints sound a little like the Spicers’ reform-school cousins. They curse, they smoke (well, two of them do), and they’ve been known to watch porn flicks on hotel Spectravision. (”We all scream ‘Turn the channel!”’ says Nicole, ”but we never actually do.”) And their songs can be raunchy: ”Bootie Call” is a request for sex with no strings attached, and ”Lady Marmalade,” a bawdy cover of the LaBelle classic, is a sexual anthem that would make Lil’ Kim blush. It’s all a bit surprising, especially when you consider that three of the four Saints still live at home with their parents. ”We’re looking for flats of our own,” says Melanie. ”It’s just that we’ve been busy.”

The Saints were in L.A. last month to meet with record execs — and flirt with reporters — upon the U.S. release of All Saints. In tight combat pants, tiny tees, and tousled hair, they looked like hip-hop kids whose mom had left them in the dryer a bit too long. But the look obviously works: With its come-hither cover photo of the girls seductively intertwined on a couch, All Saints is already quadruple platinum overseas, with the impossibly catchy single ”I Know Where It’s At” roosting on top 10 charts from Holland to Japan (it’s on Billboard’s Top 40 here). At the recent Brit Awards — Britain’s Grammys — All Saints snatched trophies for best video and best single away from the Spice Girls (Shaznay wept uncontrollably). Think of it as the Spice Wars.

”We wish those girls all the luck in the world,” says Saint Nick. ”But we don’t really think about them much. We’re making our own way, and we think American audiences will see that.” The Saints may have more than a prayer: They’ll grace Saturday Night Live on April 11 and guest on Beverly Hills 90210 if current negotiations pan out. Sometime in between, they hope to live out their American dream. ”Our goal,” says Natalie, ”is to meet our hero — we’d give anything to spend some time with Jerry Springer.” Hmm. The tough-talking, sin-loving Saints just might have what it takes.

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