With the sad eventuality of a 2014 without any original Ramones walking our green Earth, the pop punk genre enters its millionth wave; each crash upon our musical shores eroding the relevancy of new practitioners in the scene. I enjoy a good ‘whoa-oh’ as much as the next aging scenester, but the new players in the game face a tough task at hand when it comes to differentiating themselves from the pack. Screeching Weasel and Boris the Sprinkler opted to cover records in their entirety and the Riverdales tried being better looking in jeans and motorcycle jackets, but the 21st Century has left punks of today scrambling for purchase.
Cue Masked Intruder. The new-school Fat Wreck franchise comes high concept with its shiny new brand of low-brow bruddah punk. Three chords, four dudes, each with a color-coded ski mask and appellation (Intruder Red, Intruder Blue, et al) paired with a perhaps cultivated misbegotten criminal past and plying their trade in 21st century punk rock well informed of its myriad musical roots. While hardline punkers may take exception, the cross-pollination of the songs herein with doo-wop and classic R&B makes the M.I kool-aid go down a bit smoother than you might expect.
In this becostumed world of Slipknot and Mushroomhead or perhaps more relevantly, United Nations and/or Nobunny, the secret identity thing is arguably losing a fair amount of cachet. There has been no shortage of chatter on the interwebs that the crew is comprised of the members of Alberta, Canada punk stalwarts Chixdiggit in disguise, as well as various uncorroborated positing of Masked Intruder as any number of Midwestern punk franchises. The masks no doubt do yeoman duty in getting the members of M.I. into Canada (or the U.S.) without the benefit of work papers, but the real question is whether they are able to steal the hearts and minds of the Fat Wreck buying public.
Insidious or not, Masked Intruder appear to have the skills to take your (dollar) bills. Simply called M.I , full-length number two comes on the heels of a well-received Under The Mistletoe Christmas 7”. Dropping thirteen musical sugar rushes in just over a half-hour, each track flares quick and bright and fades just as fast. The crime theme carries on in the new record through tracks like I Fought The Law and Locked Up And Lonely, but the most obvious societal transgression might be the bold-faced appropriation of the musical gems purveyed by its punk predecessors. Dubious origins aside, there is still a decent amount of equity in such contraband and Masked Intruder definitely sweeten the pot with some musical left turns like the odd unexpected four-part harmony on Almost Like We Are Already In Love or the neo-Everly stylings that tie up When I Get Out. Far from bad, but also a little heavy-handed on the Teenage Mutant Ninja ice cream and pizza punk end of things. Masked Intruder are not going to get the crusty kids ditching their butt flaps and embracing proper societal hygienic standards, but are a good deal better with their schtick than a lot of the concept punks trying to make a name for themselves in the new Millennium.