Artist: Masked Intruder
Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Wisconsin’s Masked Intruder are at once one of modern pop-punks best kept secrets and one of its fastest emerging acts. A gimmick band who keep their identities hidden under brightly coloured ski-masks at all times, the Madison quartet have ridden their unique blend of hilarious throwback pop-punk and a much heralded live show to widespread critical acclaim, staking their claim on the top of many a scenesters’ ‘next big thing’ list in the process.
Much of this success can be owed to their delightfully enjoyable 2012 debut full-length, Masked Intruder, a record that introduced the scene at large to the juxtaposition of twisted humour and stellar songwriting chops that serves as the band’s calling card. A sleeper hit that not so much opened doors as seduced them off their hinges with its cheeky nature and pitch-perfect harmonies, Masked Intruder enabled the band to tour the world, exposing them to the ears and eyes of audiences around the world. Now signed with Fat Wreck Chords, the four young lads known only to the world as Intruder Yellow, Intruder Green, Intruder Red and Intruder Blue, appear ideally positioned to break free of the relative confines of the pop-punk scene and embrace a new level of notoriety as a true cross-over success. If there’s any justice in the world the band’s second full-length and Fat Wreck Chords debut M.I. will prove to be the getaway car.
A near perfect pop punk record, MI finds Masked Intruder at the absolute peak of their songwriting powers as they turn both their amps and their off-kilter sense of humour to 11 to take you on a 13-song joy ride through all that is awesome about this often derided genre of music.
Opening with the positively infectious “I Fought The Law,” a two and half minute ditty about losing a literal battle with law enforcement that features an unforgettable chorus and a subtle wink to the classic Sonny Curtis song of the same name, M.I. wastes no time capturing your attention with its brand of bratty punk rock, taking your ears hostage and leaving the rest of your body with no choice but to follow along with its demands. Thankfully, M.I.‘s only demand appears to be that you enjoy yourself and if the unashamed cheesiness and pitch-perfect harmonies of power pop infused gems “The Most Beautiful Girl” and “Crime Spree” don’t turn your frown upside down then there’s every chance you may be comatose.
Coming in at an unashamedly brief running time of just over half an hour, M.I. moves at a frantic pace, enabling Masked Intruder to showcase their accomplished songwriting chops delivering a dizzying array of ideas in short, sharp spurts that leave you on a high with an insatiable craving for more. Highlighted by the likes of the doo-wop inspired a capella offering “Almost Like We’re Already In Love,” killer power pop anthem “When I Get Out” and the Weezer invoking 6/8 time-signatured mid-tempo stomper “Weirdo,” as well as the aforementioned “Crime Spree,” M.I. flows seamlessly with barely a misstep to be found.
Home to some of the funniest lyrics you will ever hear, as well as some of the sweetest, M.I. showcases the band’s shrewd sense of humour and witty turn of phrase throughout ensuring that the cheeky yet sinister undercurrent of the crime and punishment inspired lyrics never detracts from the good intentions of its downtrodden heart.
With razor sharp guitars and crunching rhythms providing the perfect backdrop for the band’s killer melodies and four-part harmonies to cut through, M.I. is expertly produced delivering just the right amount of spit and shine to make radio play viable, while maintaining just enough of its disheveled punk rock heart to make it palatable to punk rock ears.
There’s a sense of wonderment, playfulness and joy for life in these songs that calls to mind the heydays of Fat Wreck Chords mainstays Screeching Weasel and Ten Foot Pole, with more than a healthy undercurrent of the likes of early Saves The Day, Kerplunk era Green Day and Jawbreaker.
A record that very much wears its heart and its influences on its torn flannelette sleeves, M.I. is destined to provide a delightful trip down memory lane for those of us who were fortunate enough to experience this genre’s mid-90s zenith while remaining modern enough to serve as the perfect launching pad for a full-scale genre revival.
Easily the smartest dumb music you will hear this year, M.I. is a triumph that should see Masked Intruder take their rightful place at the forefront of the punk rock scene, and maybe, just maybe win them a place in their unrequited loves’ heart. Providing they stay out of jail.
Review written by Brenton Harris — follow him on Twitter
MI is released on Tuesday 27 May via Fat Wreck Chords.