There was a time when pop-music Svengalis did everything in their power to conceal their illusion-manufacturing roles, diverting attention and credit to their more photogenic teen-dream creations. But in a media-obsessed environment where powerful executives like Lou Pearlman cultivate their own cults of personality, the line between creator and creation has been blurred. The trend is best personified by Pearlman's Making The Band project, which placed the manufacture of the teen group O-Town in public view. The overall effect was of a sort of Wizard Of Oz in which the Wizard is the real hero. Considering its mercenary origins, it's not surprising that O-Town seems like little more than cross-merchandising with a beat. The group has already scored a minor hit with "Liquid Dreams," a shameless bit of Top 40 cheese in which the Stepford crooners strive desperately for success-by-association by pining for a "dominatrix-supermodel-beauty queen" with "a body like Jennifer" and "the sweetest personality, like Halle B." (Maybe the group finds her hit-and-run tendency charming.) Sadly, much of the self-titled album's remainder lacks the shamelessness that makes "Dreams" so memorably horrid. Instead, it alternates treacly ballads ("Shy Girl," the Diane Warren-penned "Baby I Would") with anemic pop-funk workouts like the inept "Genie In A Bottle" re-write "Sensitive." O-Town has been criticized by estranged Pearlman creations 'N Sync and The Backstreet Boys for reflecting poorly upon the boy-band community. But while O-Town could conceivably help bring an end to the teen-pop craze, there's another side to the group: It's probably the only act around that makes The Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync look authentic by comparison.