The Pretenders have spent the past 20 years floating between critical acclaim and commercial success, sometimes achieving both (as on 1979's debut, "Pretenders"), sometimes achieving neither (1989's "Packed"). 1999 welcomes yet another Pretenders assault on love and life, mixing person and politics in the way that only Chrissie Hynde can (that lipstick and, oh, those bangs). With "!Viva El Amor!," there's little doubt that she can still hack it.
Though she keeps it soft with the jangled pop shimmer of the first single, "Human" ("I stumble and fall/ Baby I do it all" ), Hynde shows her teeth on some of the other tracks. she picks a bitch fight on "popstar" between new-school and old-school girl rock, and on "Biker," she revels in unexpected leather love with a rogue. But it's the '50s torch of "One More Time" that finds Hynde at her most vulnerable and, likewise, potent. "I've done some low down things," she sings. "Alright but you said I was good." She is.