Masked Intruder - M.I. (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Masked Intruder

M.I. (2014)

Fat Wreck Chords

Don't let your parents or the police fool you, crime pays. Just ask the four guys in Masked Intruder. Ever since their demo came out in 2011, these four multicolored masked criminals have progressively parlayed a life of crime into pop–punk glory. 2012's self–titled release brought their playfully nefarious intentions to a growing audience, eager for catchy sing–alongs about love, stalking and petty theft, all while dripped in harmonies so sweet they're cavity inducing. Two years, countless shows, and who–knows–how–many fenced goods later, Masked Intruder is back with the almost self–titled M.I.

M.I is an instantly familiar listen, as the opening track is a re–recorded version of "I Fought the Law" from their aforementioned demo. This isn't, however, the standard reworking of the Bobby Fuller classic. This is an entirely new Intruder original, where the law not only wins, but "beat the shit outta me." The new version is louder, stronger and everything one would expect of a song fully realized from demo form. The last few years on the road have clearly paid off.

"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" follows, and shows Intruder in full wooing–the–girl mode. Showcasing the bright, poppy sound that dominates M.I., it is the perfect lead–off single, and shows the band has retained their focus on hooky choruses. "Crime Spree" solidifies this thought, as Intruder Blue invites his love to escape imploring her that "there are only so many chances in life/All alone is just no way to be … so let's hold up the world, you and me." Never has a crime spree sounded so joyous, romantic and lighthearted. Punks will be loudly singing about being "hit by a Care Bear stare for real." This isn't Mickey and Mallory, it's two kids looking for a carton of smokes and a case of beer. And perhaps, you know, some making out.

"Saturday Night Alone" calculates the number of Saturdays in the summer, and the year, and asks the age–old question of whether or not to spend those nights alone. Time is limited, and Masked Intruder knows it. Speaking of time, they've done that too as evidenced by "When I Get Out," which truthfully could just as easily be a paean to growing up and leaving home. Thoughts of ice cream and pizza every day and not having anyone telling you what to do lend themselves as easily to getting out of jail as they do to mom and dad's place.

"Stars" is where Masked Intruder starts to break away from their previous crime–related antics and plays as straightforward a love song as they've ever done. No hiding behind juvenile antics or criminal metaphors, it's the simple desire to stay together with the one you love "until the stars burn out." It's the perfect sentiment to be expressed in a pop–punk record, and Masked Intruder does it perfectly. Even the most jaded punk can't help but sing along by the end. Moving into "Almost Like We're Already in Love," Masked Intruder revisits the doo–wop influence they had on the previous album's "Wish You Were Mine." However, instead of using it as an introduction to a louder, more rocking song, it stays in that doo–wop style, vocal harmonies providing all the music necessary. It's as if four masked men were standing on your corner, snapping their fingers and singing together.

Fans that saw Masked Intruder on their fall tours with Less Than Jake and NOFX will immediately recognize "Hey Girl" and it's head–bobbing drumbeat. "Don't Run Away" continues with the up–tempo pleas for a girl to stay, and "You're The One to Blame" puts the onus squarely on the girl's shoulders for Blue's continued stalking outside her house, despite repeated calls to the authorities. When "Weirdo" kicks in, shades of Weezer are as instantly apparent as Ramones, The Queers and Screeching Weasel are in the rest of their catalog. Aren't we all "A Freak/A Geek/A Weirdo" in some way–

If M.I. falters in any way, it's just a shade longer than a pop–punk record should be. Clocking in just over 30 minutes, a couple songs could have been taken off for future b–sides or singles in their own right. Make no mistake, however. When the final song, "Locked Up and Lonely" comes on, you will still hit repeat and start the album over again. Leave it on repeat too long, and you just may be putting on your own colored balaclava.

M.I. is a welcome return for Masked Intruder, and just in time. Summer is coming. People tend to leave their windows open. And, you know, there are opportunities. Blue, Green, Red and Yellow (AKA Orange) have touring expenses, made a new record and you have money and goods that can be traded for money, even pizza. Masked Intruder just made the soundtrack to your summer, the least you could do is help a masked brother out.