Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder III (Album Review)

The criminal super group Masked Intruder are back with their third album, as with any band with an element of novelty there is a risk that the joke isn’t funny anymore. Fortunately, there are plenty of miles left in Masked Intruder’s gimmick.

With a police siren intro, MI III is off and good luck keeping up, ‘No Case’ is a ferociously catchy intro full of choppy guitars and harmonies as sharp as a prison shiv. As the musicianship builds behind the chorus there is a triumphant stadium rock feeling coming from the production. This clearly the most polished release to date but somehow despite the high production values there remains an air of DIY grit. The sharp harmonies continue into ‘Mine all Mine’ and work alongside vintage musicianship to create a timeless sound sitting somewhere between Phil Spector’s greatest hits and Zatopeks. This Doowop punk hybrid is a curve-ball but it suits both musicianship and vocals beautifully.

As the release flows there is a real sense of timelessness with throwbacks from 1960’s pop to the excess of the 1980s to Weezer style indie pop. With these backward looks, there is potential for these songs to work in venues of all sizes, some of the guitar solos are made to shred through a stadium and the harmonies are perfect for the smallest venue.

Production aside the largest progression from their previous work is the added sweetness, sure Masked Intruder had hints of bubble-gum pop-punk before but the saccharine of ‘I’m Free (At Last)’ is dizzyingly excellent. This addition adds an almost face aching level of happiness when combined with lyrics which are both in character and smart. There are people that discount Masked Intruder as a novelty act but they are writing around similar themes to the respected Mariachi El Bronx. There are so many moments of clever wordplay and a surprising amount of accessible themes. Who doesn’t enjoy petty crimes?

After a relatively tame start the vintage style is taken further with ‘B and E’, the rolling bass, guitars quickly switching between crunching and angular and the 60’s harmonies take bits from all previous tracks and combine them into the standout single from an already strong album. The crunching guitar continues and creates a seamless transition to ‘Maybe Even’ which lies somewhere between the pop of the Ramones and Blink 182’s accessible punk sound. Lyrically the humor continues with stories of crime and punishment, hidden amongst these themes there are songs about love, jealousy, and the occasional dark reflection. ‘Not Fair’ tells a slightly creepy tale of unrequited love, the drums drive the song in and out of catchy hooks and speedy guitars before ending with a sudden sense of sadness.

This is a release that really picks up speed as it progresses, with this speed comes a whole new set of musical nods there are guitars that switch between the deep glamour of the 80s and the complexity of modern punk. The vocals slip seamlessly in and out of gang harmonies, this is where the increased production values really start to count. There are no bum notes but somehow there is never a point where this sounds auto-tuned, it will be interesting to see how this step up in production comes across live.

As the album comes to a close with ‘I’ll be Back Again Someday’ there is a sense of sadness in part from the lyrics about having to leave a loved one and in part that this LP is finished. The razor-sharp harmonies, infectious hooks and singalong chorus slowly take this sadness and replace it with toe-tapping and the desire to sing along.

This third release makes It clear that Masked Intruder is much more than a novelty project. Their sublime musicianship, clever songwriting and considered vocals prove there is much more to come from these masked felons.

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