Review Summary: Get sexy, pop-punks.
What springs to mind when you think of romantic music? Is it Barry White's booming bass voice filling a candlelit room? What about the slow grooves of Maxwell's first album or the rhythmic shapeshifting on Future Sex/Love Songs
Or is it pop-punk? It's got to be pop-punk.
If you haven't heard Masked Intruder, that might seem a little confusing. They're an absolute gimmick in the most charming of ways; a four piece, colour-coded pop-punk band with sugary sweet melodies and a penchant for petty crimes. They're the Ramones meets a modern version of a leather-jacket wearing Hollywood street gang circa 1950s; the kind whose switchblades are combs and whose haircuts are the toughest things about them. They wear balaclavas, remain anonymous (but, like, are obviously probably The Ergs) and can cheese with the best of them. They're also responsible for what I'd argue is the most romantic album of 2013. And 2012, since it's a re-release. 2014, too, unless Maxwell or D'Angelo finally release their long awaited albums. Yes, Masked Intruder
, their feature full length debut, is so nice I'll hype it thrice, and oh boy is it sexy.
Or whatever. But it's really great.
Some people say that love is a prison, and you're locked up whenever you're in it.
Well I don't buy it.
And anyway, if being locked away just meant waking up next to you everyday, well I wouldn't mind it.
And so begins the metaphor that carries the album. They're criminals, but only out of, like… love. On "Unrequited Love," singer Blue lives up to his name. You can hear the frustration setting in atop the slinging guitar work. "I'm in love, unrequited love. Nobody cares for me. Every single day is lonelier than the last. Cried so many tears that I had to wring out my mask."
, right? Here's a heartbreak we've all experienced, maybe not to the point of our balaclava's soaking through, but to the extent that frustration has led to something worse. For us that means isolating ourselves or overreacting; falling into a downward spiral of drunkenness and gloom. For Masked Intruder it means four part harmonies and an ensuing petty crime spree.
On "Breakin'" Blue escapes custody, metaphorically or otherwise, to be with the one he loves. On "Heart Shaped Guitar" we learn just how unrequited their romance is---they've never met. What happens next is both awkward and magical. Here's a guy so in love with a woman he's one upped Say Anything
, swapping boom box for a heart shaped guitar and Peter Gabriel for an original. But she doesn't know him! He's crossing the line! Gross. Absolutely.
But their back and forth? It's fuck
If this were real life there would be a real social implications to the song worth examining in great detail. Personal space, reciprocation and appropriate flirting are all issues we can dialogue about, but this isn't real life. Masked Intruder the band operate in a fantasy land that's somewhere between Grease and Rock 'n' Roll High School, one where rape culture doesn't exist. Masked Intruder
the album exists in that same space, and in its short 29-minutes tells a phantom-relationship from front to back. It tells a story of infatuation, heartbreak, rejection and reaction. More than that, it does it with some serious musical chops.
Take a song like "Wish You Were Mine," a slow-burning heartbreaker with an a cappella backbone that's reminiscent of Glee
's frolicking score, only, y'know, not nauseating. Here's a song with razor sharp guitars and a hearty swing and, more than that, lyrics that reek of earnest desperation. "All I want to say to you," sings Blue, "is that I wish you were mine."
By the time it ends, Masked Intruder
sells itself as fantasy. It sells itself as an album filled with yearning. This from an album that features a song about a cat burglar falling for his would-be score.
"Hello Beautiful," croons Blue. "I can tell just by the look that's in your eyes that you don't consider this a nice surprise finding me here in your house. It may be true that I came here to rob you. Please believe that's something I would not do now that you blew me away."
The line between fantasy and fiction blurs the longer you listen to the album, and that's maybe the most endearing thing about it. These caricatures strip the real world implications of a stalking, breaking & entering love affair and replace them with childhood tinglings of love at first sight and the crippling reality of rejection.
"I had a dream that we walked hand in hand in the summer sun. You were eating a popsicle and we were having so much fun. We made out under the stars, you told me I'm the only one. So why don't you love me in real life?"