Album number four and everything is possible. The uncertainty of the debut is over, the confirmation of the second is in the past and the milestone of the third - the one that stresses that the previous two hits were no accident - has now also been overtaken.
With Lokemo, Arsenal has, if not rediscovered, then at least redefined itself. Not in the least because Hendrik Willemyns and John Roan granted themselves absolute freedom this time. “If we felt like making an ambient-track, we just went ahead and did it. But if the next day a song came about that wanted to be rock, no problem!” says Hendrik. And that line probably sums up the essence of the group, because there's no other band that can switch between styles and genres as easily as Arsenal can. You could call that eclectic… or multi-faceted… concepts that don’t stray far from the truth. But in this case it’s simply the nature of the beast. “We wanted to grow, and that was only possible if we could follow our own intuition without complexes or taboos. Restricting yourself can be useful, but not if it is in order to meet what is expected of you. We wanted to tell other stories, not get stuck in repetition.” And indeed: where it is customary in pop music to build a whole career on one and the same idea, Arsenal sounds different every time. But always familiar.
Take ‘Melvin’, the first single where guest singer Shawn Smith, in his own inimitable way, unleashes his hopes and regrets. With a chorus that locks in your head and a voice that will make you giddy all over. But even more than that, the sum of the parts sounds funky and sensual. Sexy, even. It doesn’t take much imagination to predict that live, this will easily become a pinnacle that, with will be able to match hits like ‘Longee’, ‘Saudade’ and ‘Estupendo’. Same for Mike Ladd’s ‘One Day At A Time’, a song that announces the summer like the first swallow announces the spring.
To get the album started Arsenal rented a place in the Breton village of Locquémeau, a house which was far enough to focus on the work and isolated enough to play their music very loud so they could drown out the sound of storms and gushing rains. On Lokemo they experiment not only musically but also vocally new stuff happens. People like Depotax or Johnny Whitney, of the legendary Hardcore-band The Blood Brothers, will make Arsenal-fans forget that they were ever described as a world-fusion band. Which they never were.
The music, as always, feels cheerful and positive, but there is an underlying darkness that you would not immediately associate with the band. Someone once said that "the best art reflects the environment in which it was created". If that is the case then I fear that Hendrik & John don't hold high hopes for the 21st century.
Arsenal is known as one of the most popular bands in Belgium. The group was featured in the hit series Six Feet Under and was praised in the United States by celeb-bloggers like Perez Hilton or Kany West. But above all, Arsenal is a live band that raises temperatures in every club, hall or festival to boiling point. With no less than four sold-out performances at the Ancienne Belgique on the agenda Arsenal is reminded that people expect something that will last...