The criminal life has its pitfalls, but it helps to revive the pop-punk genre on First Offense, the just-released debut 7-inch from the four-piece Madison pop-punk band Masked Intruder.
More often than not, the songs lapse into the comically risky subject of stalking women, the joke being that it comes more from a lack of romantic finesse than from psychotic malice - well, at least within the rationalization factory that is the criminal mind. In the song "ADT Security," for instance, the burglar-alarm company is an obstacle to inept but well-intentioned courtship.
It's as if the band want to punch up a sick joke by downplaying the sickness, ignoring any notion of menace. They incorporate other criminal themes into their up-tempo songs: On "Gimme Parole," a con tells the authorities that he won't "repeat mistakes I made - allegedly."
Calling themselves Intruder Blue, Intruder Green, Intruder Red and Intruder Yellow, band members wear color-coded ski masks and Chucks. Yes, pop-punk and gimmicky stage acts can both get old fast, but Masked Intruder make the songs nice and tight, and even ask for a little sympathy: "Won't you give a lonely masked man a chance?" Intruder Blue pleads on "I Wish You Were Mine." Stage banter in knucklehead accents, and an actually quite funny all-caps Twitter feed (@maskedintruder1), round out the identity.
Though Masked Intruder is a known alias of local punk band the Gusto, the members insisted on showing up to an interview at Mickey's Tavern in full robbery regalia, gnawing on color-coordinated lollipops and Laffy Taffy in an apparent effort to appear harmless. Which worked, in that a child walked up and asked if Intruder Red was Spider-Man.
On the song "ADT Security," you talk about following a girl home and watching her enter her security code. At what point should a person just give up?
Intruder Blue: Well, we're very romantic guys. If you see, like, a movie, what a girl wants is for you to never stop. Show up at her house with a boom box, play her songs, and late at night, just write her poetry, and leave her presents all the time.
So you seem to think that's all harmless, but on "Stick 'Em Up!," you sing about robbing people at knifepoint.
Intruder Blue: But that's a victimless crime! People always feel like they're so entitled to their money because they're the one that has it in their pocket, but it's like, pretty soon, I'm the one with it in my pocket, and now whose money is it?
Why the color-coordinated outfits? If you're hiding your identities, shouldn't you be more inconspicuous?
Intruder Green: We've got to be able to tell each other apart.
Intruder Yellow: I forgot which one I was for a long time.
Intruder Blue: You see little kids wearing ski masks, you know, and I feel like we still all got the hearts of young boys.
Why is your Twitter feed all-caps all the time?
Intruder Blue: It's a little embarrassing, but the different shapes of letters, the small ones, are always confusing for me.
Intruder Green: It's true. You ever looked at an "h"?
Despite your crime-centric identities, you seem to feel that there are things people don't understand about you.
Intruder Blue: Just 'cause I got a ski mask, they're judging me. You can't get a job. I could be your dad, or like, Mahatma Gandhi or something. It's very discriminatory.
From the harmonies on "I Wish You Were Mine," it's clear you've got nice singing voices. So what went wrong?
Intruder Green: You can sing all you want in prison.
Intruder Blue: No, actually, if you sing too much in prison, you might just get stabbed.