Best heard live

On first listen, Maná’s most recent studio work isn’t terribly remarkable.

Certainly, the Mexican quartet’s mix of classic and modern rock with Latin rhythms requires much more musicianship than, say, emo or nu metal. But boil down 1997’s Sueños Liquidos and 2002’s Revolución de Amor to hooks, and Maná doesn’t quite score where immediacy is concerned.

But they do rank high when it comes to making a slow burner.

Like its predecessor,

Revolución de Amor was custom-made for arena play. The kind of majestic, big guitar rock Maná traffics gets stiffled on recording but expands greatly in live performance.

“Ay, doctor”, “Eres mi religion” and “Justicia, Tierra y Libertad” could very well allow for some great jamming, and it’s not a stretch to imagine thousands of rabid fans singing along with the lyrics. “Pobre Juan,” on the other hand, posseses the kind of introspection conducive to waving lit candles.

Besides, lead singer Fher has a voice that can’t be restrained by the confines of a studio.

After a while, Revolución de Amor sinks in, and the individual songs reveal their smarts.

“Sabanas Frias” starts off with a melancholy guitar line, but as more rhythms get layered, it gains an exuberant momentum. “Fe” follows a similar route — it starts of quietly with minimal percussion and ends in double time.

“Mariposa Tracionera” is the album’s most Latin track and Maná at its least showy. It’s a nice break from the band’s constant need to demonstrate just how damn skilled they are.

The middle of Revolución de Amor loses its momentum by indulging in a lot of mid-tempo tracks, but Maná makes it up toward the end with a trilogy of up-tempo keepers, ending with the effusive “Nada que perder”.

If Maná wrote more songs along the lines of those last three tracks, then perhaps Revolució de Amor wouldn’t be such a mixed bag.

As it stands, the album is a competent work, skillfully performed and meticulously crafted. But until these songs get their turn on stage, they won’t reveal just how good they might be.