With their familiar police siren wail, Masked Intruder welcome you to their sophomore LP, the not–so–creatively–titled M.I.. It tears into the predictable Queers–via–Ramones furious downpicked riffs, and some poppy–as–shit vocals about being beaten up by the cops. It's what's to be expected.
But who the fuck cares– At this point, if you're not sick of their jokes and sugary vocals, you're ready for plenty more. You need more tunes to sing and clap along with, because, like me, you spun their self–titled debut into the ground. You know every word, every cymbal crash, and you air–guitar on your outer thigh during every palm–muted section. With M.I. the quartet of Wisconsinite ski–masked criminals and longing loverboys give us another set of the poppiest of pop punk down to the once–again 13–song tracklist. They still have their all black outfits with moniker color–coordinating Chucks on, they still love the ladies they can't have, they still want some pizza and still wanna take your hard–earned money to buy said pizza.
But who the fuck cares– The haters that just love to hate– The crusty old punks– The pussy indie rockers (well, other than me)– Fuck them all! MI tear through pop punk jam after pop punk jam, including the previously released single "The Most Beautiful Girl." It was somewhat of a surprise for Fat to introduce the album with this song, since it doesn't mention a single misdemeanor and is just about admiring a certain lady, not even in a creepy stalker way. What gentlemen! But it's up to the high standard of catchiness set by their debut, so who the fuck cares.
The biggest selling point of Masked Intruder for me was the occasional doo–wop, '60s pop and Motown influences peeking through in their backing vocals. This is what separates them from all of the other Ramonescore bands back to the '90s heyday of Screeching Weasel; these aren't just "woah oh"s. There is a lead and two backup singers, Supremes style, Temptations style (minus one guy), Four Seasons–style (minus three). The vocals are key in this band and there are tons of three–part harmonies on this thing and they do it damn well for a bunch of Midwestern petty thieves. "When I Get Out" is a perfect example, and is the track I'm most addicted to at the moment. Starting with a tom–riding beat and shaker to ride through the guitar stabs, Intruder Green and Yellow supply the title in close harmony, continuing to back up Blue through the verse. When the chorus hits, they sustain thirds under the lead, and keep the tune at the absolute peak of sing–along–itude. After I force my wife to listen to this all summer, she'll be sure to back me as I take the lead on car trips up north while moving into our new house. "I'm gonna find the fink that put me away / Give him a piece of my mind. / I'm havin' ice cream every day / And pizza every night." Classic Masked Intruder.
There are no six–minute experimental, multi–movement rock opera forays. No one wants that from Masked Intruder. But we do get some new minor tricks, notably those spotlighting those '60s vocal stylings like in "Almost Like We're Already in Love." Aside from the shaker and snaps, it's only vocals. Barbershop quartet shit here, people. It's another love song and the harmonies are spot on but they execute vocal maneuvers no other pop punk group would dare attempt –– V7 chords to hang that sweet lead note out there before it resolves– Damn, son. They also grab the acoustic guitar on closer "Locked Up and Lonely" but of course it shifts to huge overdriven chords soon enough as the drums kick it out. "Weirdo" goes 6/8 and reminds me a ton of Nerf Herder, one of my favorite of the nerdy '90s pop–punk acts, with it's self–deprecating–as–all–get–out lyrics.
M.I. keeps the distortion up and tempos quick for 95 percent of the set. Like I said, little rewards are thrown in, another one being the brief a cappella break in "Saturday Night Alone"'s last refrain and while it is glossed up with some shimmering chorus effect, it sounds so damn smooth and pretty you can't complain. They make sure to hit you with straight–up blitzkrieg sub–two–minute jams like "Hey Girl" and "I Don't Want to Say Goodbye to You Tonight" to confirm that, hells to the yes they are deeply indebted to the Ramones.
M.I. will satisfy all Masked Intruder superfans, no doubt. They keep their best punk rock elements but give just enough extra attention to their defining backing vocals and break up the set with just two brief dips into gentler romantic–dude stuff. Guaranteed to be a Punknews favorite and my most–played album of the summer. Haters gonna hate –– yeah it's more of the same but just as good (maybe even better–) so who the fuck cares–