This is the most recent pop punk pick so far! Masked intruder’s self-titled debut album! Four masked gentlemen in ski masks with different colors singing creepy songs about breaking into a girl’s house and winning her love and sad unrequited love songs. Pop punk has been a distant genre the last few years, especially in the traditional version and what we’ve grown to know Pop punk as, has been either whiskey-drinking hipsters from Florida with beards, singing gruff songs about how much life sucks, or whiny metalcore bands with boy band vocals that sounds like they have a huge longing to be on TRL, even if that shit doesn’t exist anymore. There are of course good bands in both these genres of punk, but to me Masked Intruder’s blend of Ramones-core and oldies-core with Intruder Blue’s vocals that are absolutely beautiful is something else. The most common critiques of the band would be that they don’t bring anything new to the table, that they base all their music on old ideas and that they are simply generic, that they have a gimmick that won’t last in the long-term, or at all, and that they are contributing to a sexist male-dominated culture, which overflows with entitlement and objectifies females.
I can’t really argue that the band is not generic; except for Blue’s vocals, they don’t really bring anything new to the table. Is any band truly original though? Can’t we just enjoy the music? Finally a band plays pop punk! And are any of those Gainesville or NFG-core bands that original? Same as a lot of homophobic and misogynist hip hop artists, MI operate under fictional characters and it gets harder to accuse the band of being sexist. It’s also dangerous to blame shitty cultural things that are ingrained in society on a band. The band does undoubtedly have a gimmick, and the gimmick is sort of silly. The thing is I don’t think the band would have been as great as they are and have the following and diverse fan base they have if they were just dependent on having a gimmick and singing creepy sexist songs about being criminals and breaking into ladies’ houses. There’s something universal and relatable in their lyrics that works outside of, and even in spite of, their gimmick; something that is inside the human consciousness (and not only some kind of institutionalized sexism), but something that makes the songs work on their own without the gimmick or the criminal imagery. This article will be mainly on the band Masked intruder, and who’s behind the masks of Intruder blue (singer and guitarist), Intruder Green (guitar and vocals), Intruder Red (Bass and Vocals and Intruder Yellow (drums) is irrelevant. They also bring a police officer, Officer Bradford, on tour, who’s with them on stage.
The album was released on Red scare in 2012 and re-released on Fat wreck Chords in 2013. Their second album M.I somehow fell short to this one, but gets better and better and does have a couple of good tunes. This is however maybe when they come to a point where the gimmick will wear off and sadly the songs and their songwriting will too, but hopefully not. This article is about the first album though. A strong strength of the band is their musicianship and their production, which might be one of the reasons they have more success than a lot of similar sounding bands: that, and the songwriting of course.
1. “Masked Intruder”: The first track is just a short intro. Does this intro have the required features needed to introduce a band that dress up in masks and plays the roles of criminals? Is there noisy music? Check! Is there an obligatory police siren? Check! Is the bands named spelled out? CHECK! M.A.S.K.E.D. I.N.T.R.U.D.E.R! Masked intruder!
2. “25 to Life”: Is maybe the song that works most as keeping the gimmick separated from the song itself. The prison/criminal imagery serves here mostly as a metaphor. Blue sees a relationship as a prison, but he doesn’t mind being locked in that kind of prison for life. The song is full of prison imagery and love clichés. It also has some cutesy lines that are pretty poetic like “In a world of nightmares you’re my sweet sweet dream” and “In a lifelong wintertime you’re my first day of spring” describing the purpose of meeting this special person. In the context of the album, Blue sings about a lady that he only sees from the outside, but outside of the album the song can be seen different and could even be seen as romantic. Musically, the song sounds like a heavier Ramones and with a chorus goes into a classic pop melody with Brian Wilson inspired harmonies. The song also reminds me a lot of the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian”.
3. “How Do I Get To You?” Really works as the creepy entitled love song written from a criminal in jail. The song has a very interesting rhyming scheme that is hard to explain and it’s pretty much a straight up pop punk song. A classic line from the song is “you just can’t charm a lady with a knife/ But that sucks, cause it’s all I know how to do”.
4. “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight”: This is maybe the creepiest song on the album, but in that way also the most brilliant. Blue, even if he is a criminal, represents himself as a frightened character who doesn’t want to be alone. He also claims the girl in the song doesn’t want to be alone either. The bridge of the song “When you think that you’re all alone and you’re feeling blue, just take a look in your back yard…/ I’m here for you” sounds like a way of comforting this lady, but it could also be seen as a threat as it comes from a dangerous criminal. The band made a music video of the song after the album was re-released on Fat. The song has a pretty cool keyboard.
5 “Unrequited Love”: This 60’s inspired pop song goes into the maybe most important theme of the band: unrequited love. The first verse is also repeated as the second verse, very similar to a lot of Queers songs on Move back home and Lillingtons songs. There’s a nice tambourine in the song that gives the song its pop-feel. The lyrics are pretty sweet and, except for one line, goes away from the criminal theme. The exception is maybe the prettiest line of the song “Every single day is lonelier than the last/I cried so many tears that I had to wring out my mask”.
6 “Breaking”: Is another straight up pop punk song. The cool thing about the lyrics is that the title “Breaking” is used in different ways. Blue is breaking in because his heart is broken, he is broken up since they broke apart. And he is breaking down and he is breaking out to fix a broken situation. He is breaking down because she broke the news that he’s not the one for her. The song ends with an acoustic guitar being played outside the lady’s bedroom (cheesy 80’s movie style) and goes straight into the next track.
7. “Heart Shaped Guitar”: Maybe the most popular song from the album and the song that also includes the female point of view. Blue sings his creepy, yet romantic poetry about standing outside the girl’s house and playing on a heart shaped guitar, trying to get the listener to sympathize with his romantic feelings, but the female perspective just makes him sound creepier, as she sings “dude, you’re freaking me out, what the fuck’s wrong with you?” which is maybe one of Masked intruder’s most brilliant devices. The last verse is more of a duet where Blue sings his lines and she sings hers, which makes a strange harmony. The chorus is also extremely catchy and the guitar solo playing the chorus is no different. The girl singing in the song is Maura from the Mixtapes and she is credited on the album; she is also known as Intruder Pink.
8. “Am I Only Dreaming?”: This is maybe my favorite song on the album. It goes from being straight up pop punk to ending with more of a Doo Wop song, and I feel it’s a song that just can’t leave the listener unsatisfied. It’s also one of the songs that both fit the theme of the album, but is also just a standard love song.
9 “Stick ‘em Up”: This is the most punk song on the album, and has nothing to do with the “romantic” side of the album at all. It focuses mostly on the criminal side and Masked Intruder actually robbing people. This serves as a huge contrast to the rest of the album, marking the band as dangerous criminals rather than romantic troubadours. “I GOT A KNIFE MOTHERFUCKER STICKM’EM UP!”.
10. “Why Don’t You Love Me in Real Life?”: Is the song on the album that sounds most like a Power pop song. It starts up rather slowly and speeds up a bit as it goes on. The lyrics in the song reflect on the relationship between infatuations in dreams and reality. Blue wonders why the girl that loves him in his dreams won’t love him in real life and rather calls the cops on him when he’s trying to break into her house, which is understandable to the listener, but not to Blue. The theme of the song reminds me of “Boy of the Month” by the Connie Dungs: “I tried to kiss you when I heard the damn alarm” (which of course is different from the alarm in the Masked intruder song), Weezer’s “Only in dreams” and “Astral plane” by the Modern lovers. The line “you were eating a popsicle” also seems sort of creepy.
11. “Hello Beautiful”: Is the song sung from when the band has broken into the girl’s house. In the song, Blue tries to convince himself that he means no harm with breaking in and he has not come there to rob her, but rather to win her love. The song ends with a phone call the girl makes to the police saying “these guys are fucking assholes, maan” the police asks “have they damaged anything?” and she says “they just keep on singing” and that leads us into the next track.
12. “Wish You Were Mine”: The song starts up a Capella and a straight up doo wop song. This is where Blue’s beautiful voice really shines through. Later the song transforms into a more aggressive pop punk song, but still with the doo wop harmonies that makes the song one of the best on the album. It’s also another song that works just as much on the album as it works as a metaphorical love song, the whole chorus is brilliant!:
You lock yourself in your castle
Away from the pain and hassle
Oh, baby, can’t you see
That you are locking out my love, as well?
I want you to show me romance
Won’t you give a lonely masked man a chance?
‘Til you do I will be blue
And living here in my own private hell
13. “Crazy”: I’ve never been sure if the album was supposed to be a concept album that was supposed to be seen chronologically. At least there is some chronology on the last few songs. In “Why don’t you love me in real life?” she calls the cops, in “hello beautiful” we can hear her calling the cops and that leads in to the a-Capella intro of “Wish you were mine” and in “Crazy” Blue is on trial. The song describes Blue’s claim of insanity, instead of just pleading the 5th, when the court declares him sane, he says his insanity isn’t temporary; he’ll always be crazy for her. “I made some bad decisions/ Cause I’m crazy for you/ And now they’re gonna throw me in prison/ Cause I’m crazy for you”.
So now I’m feeling like I have unmasked Masked intruder, at least musically. I also wonder if they will do like Kiss and make an Unmasked intruder album. The next pick will be another Self-titled, by the Riverdales!