(at least), each new record from the Pretenders
has been hailed as Chrissie Hynde
's return to form (praise that was thrown at Learning to Crawl
, by the way), and it's hard not to resist to say the same of Viva el Amor!
, the seventh studio album from the Pretenders
. So, we won't say that, even though it may be true. At the very least, Viva el Amor!
is a very appealing, focused album from Hynde
and Martin Chambers
, their most consistent album in years. It's not just that the songs are uniformly good (Hynde
's writing is sharp again, without seeming bitter or jaded), it's that the record sounds excellent -- a clean, uncluttered production that enhances the muscular performances. For the first time since Get Close, there is a minimum of sentiment -- the ballads are never saccharine, even when the melody is lovely -- and Hynde
resists her temptation for exaggerated metaphors or embarrassing phrases (even if her continuing fascination with bikers is puzzling). Viva el Amor!
never provides a knock-out punch, even on the level of "Night in My Veins," but it never lags in momentum, as many Pretenders
records do. Hynde
sounds committed and convincing on each song, turning the album into one of the group's strongest.