Ever since the Ramones burst onto the punk scene with songs about sniffing glue and lobotomies, the genre has focused on topics that other musical genres would find just a bit taboo. The whole genre has built itself on this, though in recent years the emphasis on shock seems to have slowly dissipated from much of the punk world.
If Masked Intruder has anything to say about it, they will not let this tradition die down.
Formed in Madison, WI, Masked Intruder is a group of four anonymous men in ski masks. With songs like “Crime Spree” and “Locked Up and Lonely,” the band has dedicated itself to sticking to its story of meeting and forming in prison. With their latest EP offering, Love and Other Crimes, this remains true.
There is a cohesive story throughout the EP. “Take What I Want” begins with its driving bass and retro-tinged vocal melodies that disguise to the casual listener that the theme of the song is indeed that they take what they want and that the police do not care for this. “First Star Tonight” stands out as one of the smarter pop punk songs to be released in recent memory and as the lead into the main story of the album.
Throughout “Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt,” “Running From the Cops,” “Still Always On My Mind,” and “If Only,” the band tells the story of a man pining for a young woman and, of course, turning to stalking to get close to her. Lyrics like “I know that I’m supposed to stay 100 yards away, but what if I told you that you were the only girl I ever talk about?” run throughout “Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt,” pitting syrupy-sweet lyrics with more disturbing fare.
After 1:51 barrage of wit describing an attempt to escape the police (“Everything is awesome when you’re running from the cops!”), “Still Always On My Mind” finally slows the EP down a bit, showing the man telling the young lady that, despite him facing charges and going to court, he still thinks about her fondly. This goes through “If Only,” an upbeat number where the man dreams of what it would be like if he had grown up with the woman instead of stalking and ending up in prison.
While the ski masks, the stories of crime, and the general topic of the EP may, at first glance, seem to be a gimmick, the surprise of Love and Other Crimes is this: it’s very good. The songs are not your typical pop-punk styling, filled with a style that often times seems loosely reminiscent of fifties rock. The instrumentation is tight and lyrics that could seem corny in their attempts at edge instead come off as wildly witty. Everything on the EP works together perfectly.
Love and Other Crimes is certainly the catchiest collection of stalker-themed songs I can remember. Beyond that, though, it is a collection that punk fans will certainly find smart, funny, and in the truest traditions of punk rock.
While other modern pop-punk bands may focus all of their attention on the angst of heartbreak, there are very few bands who would still be daring enough to take on topics like sniffing glue and lobotomies. Masked Intruder is, thankfully, one of those bands.
Love And Other Crimes will be released on July 8th from Pure Noise Records.