Clandestino, Manu Chao's first solo effort, owed its greatness to its character. It was a minimalistic, yet filled with experimentation, album. But, what's most distinctive, it was honest, direct, intimate: the personal diary of someone who had traveled a lot, not only around Latin America but through life. Unfortunately, Chao seems to lose his way a little bit in Esperanza. Apparently intended to be a continuation of what started in Clandestino, it ends being just a clone of it. The reiteration of ideas and formulas takes away from Esperanza everything that made of Clandestino a memorable piece of work. The problem with Esperanza is that Chao, instead of deepening what he proposed in his first album, seems to overfly the surface of his ideas. The consequence of this is that he transforms charm into cliché, leaving the listener with a very light flavor. Anyway, Esperanza still has a bunch of great songs ("Mr Bobby," "Mi Vida," "Trapped By Love," "Me Gustas Tú," "Bixo") and good lyrics ("Mi Vida") which amply justify its listening. Dedicated fans will find that Esperanza is not what they were expecting, yet it's really easy-going and accessible so it will end working for them as well as for casual listeners.
AllMusic Review by Alberto Moreno de la Fuente