Y’know, anyone new to Masked Intruder and going in off the details surrounding the music rather than the music itself would more than likely write them off immediately. They’re a pop-punk band for a start, a genre that’s currently hanging around in the doldrums in terms of overall talent at the moment, and their gimmick of being a band of bank robbers with each member’s identity determined by the colour of their balaclava could be just as off-putting. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and despite everything they’ve got against them, Masked Intruder have always been a fantastic band. There’s a sense of fun about them that never feels shallow or juvenile, and a propensity for captivating, impossibly catchy melodies across pretty everything they’ve released to date that’s made their underrated status so consistently baffling. This is a band who could be absolutely enormous with just the right push, and yet, for some reason, that’s never happened, and while it’s unlikely to change with III, if this third album is even nearly as good as their past material, Masked Intruder are all but guaranteed another winner for those in the know.
And really, it’s hard to say anything more, mostly because Masked Intruder possess an uncanny ability to circumvent the vast majority of critical faculties and blast their music right into the brain’s pleasure centre. III doesn’t really improve or build on what this band have done in the past, but it doesn’t need to; Masked Intruder remain one of the most enjoyable bands out there thanks to unshakable melodies, hooks that hit with equal amounts of sweetness and crunch, and a sense of tongue-in-cheek fun that seems to have unfortunately been phased out of most pop-punk in this vein. It’s all utterly ridiculous, of course, but that’s what Masked Intruder do best, and III is no exception.
A big part of that comes in how concise it all is, with not a single inch of fat impeding the strings of hit after hit that Masked Intruder deliver. The standard of warm, uptempo pop-punk bears the most fruit here, with tracks like No Case and I’m Free (At Last) pretty much nailing the uncomplicated yet impossibly engaging vibe from the off, and with the touches of classic pop and doo-wop on Please Come Back To Me, it reinforces a sweetness that permeates through pretty much the entire album. That’s not to be confused with sounding saccharine either; Masked Intruder’s sound remains profoundly organic throughout with only very slight hints of electronic twinkles on Stay With Me Tonight, but their intention is rooted in classic power-pop, prioritising the sunny, energetic bound and delightfully unassuming vocals of Intruder Blue above anything too deep or dark. It’s simplicity is apparent, but III does enough with it and the strength of its melodies to remain almost consistently fresh.
And that’s pretty impressive from a band who have only two thematic shticks, those being committing crimes and professing their love in a few less-than-reputable ways. There’s definitely room for repetition and Masked Intruder aren’t totally immune to it, but it’s a testament to how well they can work their sound and how pliable that sound is when they’re able to make a lot from so little, and how the cartoonishness of it all really stands out above anything else. The general mood and attitude of this album is one that isn’t to be taken straight, and while that could easily be taken as a shoddy get-out clause for some of the dicier moments like the possessive Mine All Mine or the stalkerish Not Fair, the goofiness of it all easily overtakes any possible maliciousness. These are quite clearly songs from the perspectives of the Masked Intruder characters, and that suspension of disbelief is a primary buoyant force here, especially when the two central themes merge on the Bonnie and Clyde-esque capers of Just So You Know and B & E.
Most of all though, it’s just simply fun. There are no pretensions towards depth or complexity, but there doesn’t need to be; Masked Intruder have honed their craft to a fine point, and with a pleasing lack of filler and ironclad hooks for days, III is the sort of pop-rock diamond that really hammers home what this genre is capable of in the right hands. Granted, it can feel rather slight in the way that so many Masked Intruder releases have in the past, but a lovestruck sugar-rush like this deserves to be paid attention to regardless, especially when it’s as irresistible as this.
For fans of: Weezer, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Get Up Kids
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘III’ by Masked Intruder is released on 1st March on Pure Noise Records.