Masked Intruder “Masked Intruder” 2012
I’ve been thinking a lot of this album. Let me give you the run-down on Masked Intruder first. They’ve got a shtick, if you couldn’t tell from their album cover, and that shtick is that they sing about stalking/harassing girls who they have a crush on and possibly getting thrown in jail for it. But before you storm them down with your torches and pitchforks, hear me out.
I was drawn to this band (like many other pop punk bands) by their catchy music and lyrics. They’ve got the whole doowop-inspired pop punk formula down. And their little gimmick they’ve got, albeit problematic, actually rounds them out to a perfect 10 as far as pop punk bands go. Because in addition to those singable songs that get stuck in your head, who doesn’t like consistency?
To be honest, I’m not super familiar with most of their work, (edit: just learned this was actually their first full-length which followed a 7” that was released earlier this year) but I’ve been listening to this latest self-titled album a lot lately. I feel that the best way to unpack it is to go song by song.
"25 to Life" was the first song I heard, so you could understand why I was hooked. It kind of disproves the whole "ball and chain" relationship trope, but plays it up to still keep the whole male-fronted pop punk "trying to get the girl" charade. It’s cute and obviously I blushed when my s.o. put it on a mix for me. But still, this theme of "getting locked up" and being "sentenced" kind of sets you up for the rest of the album in an innocent way.
Some people say that love is a prison
You’re locked up whenever youre in it, well I dont buy it
I wouldn’t hate being locked away
to spend waking up next to you every day
No, I wouldn’t mind it
"How Do I Get to You" comes up next and immediately brings up the prospect of using a weapon to get close to/coerce a woman.
You just can’t charm a lady with a knife
And that sucks, ‘cause it’s all I know how to do
It’s really sneakily slipped in there between lots of lines rhyming “true” with “you.” The other questionable verse later in the song talks about sending letters from jail (presumably for sexual harassment) to a girl who was never really interested in the first place. Do you know how much I was rooting for this song? At first I thought, okay, maybe it’s just like listening to a Steinways song: you’re kind of pissed and put off but how much damage can Grath Madden really cause?
"I Don’t Want to Be Alone Tonight" gave me that same Grath vibe, of course, up until this:
When you think tha you’re all alone, and you’re feeling blue
Just take a look out your back door, I’m here for you!
Now this can be easily passed off as a vague (yet still creepy) hopeless romantic line reminiscent of Dion and the Belmonts. And when “Unrequited Love” come up, you start hearing that doo-wop influence a lot more. I have to commend them for making it through an entire 2-minute, 59-second song without alluding to giving a girl unwanted attention (though, they do mention wearing a mask, which just makes me laugh because this running theme is starting to be kind of hilarious to me). Instead, it’s a lament of self pity and having it lined up with all these other songs just makes me imagine it as the anthem for the mouth-breathing, fedora-wearing Redditors wondering why girls keep friend-zoning them.
"Breakin’" kind of speaks for itself:
I’m breaking in, ‘cause you broke my heart
and I’m all broke up since we broke apart
Obviously being upset and heartbroken does not justify breaking into a girl’s house, and I start to wonder if this whole “joke” is obvious enough for the rest of the pop punk population (mostly straight dudes) to get that it’s a “joke.”
"Heart Shaped Guitar" is the seventh track on this album, and it’s the first song I encounter that really goes over the top with this whole creepy stalker theme. This is the chorus:
…That’s why I’m standing here at 3am out on your front yard
Singing you a love song on a heart-shaped guitar
And i hope you hear me and i hope that you care
And you put on a smile and you come downstairs
…which, later in the song, is changed and sung by a woman:
Why are you stanidng there at 3am out on the front yard
Singing stupid love songs on a heart-shaped guitar
And I don’t wanna hear it ‘cause I don’t really care
And the police are on the way so just stay right there
It’s at this point that I really see what they’re parodying, and the lyrics actually make me picture the music video for The Starting Line’s “Best of Me." This song is straight up hilarious, and my favorite part is the harmonization of the hopeless romantic lyrics over a girl saying things like "I don’t even know you," and "I’m calling the cops." It’s at this point in the album that I can stop holding my breath and actually laugh at how silly it is. I just wish I didn’t have to take them seven songs to get there.
"Am I Only Dreaming" brings back the whole "standing outside your window" love song narrative. I’d give this song a free pass. It would probably have gotten away with getting recorded in the 60’s with back up female singers (they even have the "shoowop-doowops" in it!). (PS: pop punk needs more "shoowop-doowops").
"Stick ‘Em Up" left me scratching my head at first. What is with the gang vocals, amiright? Who you trying to yell at and threaten with this knife? Then I gave it a closer listen. The story of this song goes as follows: He has a knife (pretty clear about it) and finds a woman in an alley and mugs her, then goes on a "shopping spree" with the money he stole from her. Without really listening to the words, it just sounds like a real "tough guy" pop punk song with hard riffs and aggressive singing. But when listen to the words that aren’t the constant "I’VE GOT A KNIFE MOTHER FUCKER STICK ‘EM UP" chants, you find some really charged, disturbing, triggering lines:
"…Here in the alley it’s just you and me…"
"…Don’t try to send nobody after me, I got your address off of your ID, and don’t forget it"
Besides the threatening message it sends to women, I do not see at all how this song fits on this album, or on any album for that matter. If this song were listened to on its own, I wouldn’t blame the listener for having a fit. It’s truly unacceptable and I see no comedic value in it whatsoever, if that’s what they were trying to invoke.
After that big hiccup in the middle of the album, the last four tracks give you a more light-hearted experience and brings you back to things you can actually laugh at as a woman listening to it.
"Why Don’t You Love Me in Real Life" made me laugh just reading the title of the song, because it just reminds me of being on the Internet and crushing on people from behind a computer screen (kind of speaks volumes for my generation). But ah, it’s not about the Internet. At first it sounds like a guy who can only seem to have this girls in his dreams, but then kind of takes a should-have-been-expected turn…
Every night in my sweets dreams I get to hold you in my arms
I tried to get something real out of it honey, but I just set off your burglar alarm
Why are you calling the cops baby, I don’t mean you any harm
Why don’t you love me in real life?
This kind of brings us back to the point I made with “Heart-Shaped Guitar,” in which the content of the song is actually comical. It doesn’t compete with the corniness and bluntness of “Heart-Shaped Guitar,” but it’s close. At least, I thought so, until the lyric “Is it because of my laugh or just because I’m brandishing a knife?” Because of course, there weren’t enough mentions of his knife enough on this album already.
"Hello Beautiful" just rehashes the other narratives told in the album, including showing up in her house uninvited. At this I’m yawning, especially over the line "Hello beautiful, won’t you tell me where you’ve been all my life" which is repeated for most of the song, and is a line that reminds me far too much of unwanted comments from strange men on the street. However, at the end of the song there is a soundbite of what’s supposed to be a 911 call of a girl reporting these "masked intruders" in her house, saying that they’re "fucking annoying," they aren’t damaging anything, "they’re just singing." This gives me another sigh of relief and I’m able to laugh once again. I just wish more of the songs were like this/had something like this added to it to remind us why we’re playing along with the whole masked intruder gimmick.
"I Wish You Were Mine" is my favorite song on the album next to "25 to Life" and if you know me you’d probably understand why. This is the track where we see the most old school do-wop influence, which I LOVE in pop punk. Give me "woah-ohs" paired with "doo doo-doos" and I’ll be sold. Also, there’s no mention of breaking and entering, violence, OR stalking in this one! A+.
There couldn’t have been a more appropriate closing song for this album than “Crazy.” Despite the title you finally feel like you’re listening to a sane dude.
"I don’t want to admit it, but I’m crazy for you
and I know that I won’t be acquitted, but I’m crazy for you…”
"…I made some bad decisions, because I’m crazy for you
And now they’re gunna throw me in prison, ‘cause I’m crazy for you…”
They see the error in their ways, and the sense of self-awareness they pepper throughout the album and in this song in particular is what keeps me listening. They know these actions are shitty and low, but anything for love, right?