In MKE Music Rewind we revisit notable Milwaukee music that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014. This week: Like You Like An Arsonist by Madison-turned-Milwaukee indie rockers Paris, Texas.

Want to feel old? Of course you don’t, but allow us to share this mortality-reminding piece of information with you anyway. This weekend (May 4, 2024, to be exact), Like You Like An Arsonist—the fifth and final release by Paris, Texas—will celebrate its 20th anniversary. To give you a frame of reference for just how long of a span of time that is, George W. Bush was still in his first Presidential term when this album was released. There are currently college sophomores reading this who weren’t even born the day this album hit Sam Goody CD racks and the iTunes Store (which had launched one year earlier). Hell, the Friends series finale wouldn’t even air until two days after this record came out. Damn.

Now that we’ve effectively sapped your life force with those time-focused tidbits, would you like to feel young, energetic, and full of life again? Okay. We have just the thing for that! We strongly suggest that you listen to Like You Like An Arsonist—the fifth and final release by Paris, Texas—and let the Wisconsin indie rock outfit’s massive and unrelentingly swaggering collection of 11 songs that are overflowing with memorable hooks, vibrant instrumentation, and then-inventive production take you back to comparatively simpler and more entertaining times. If you’re not transported to a dorm room, the passenger seat of your friend’s Saturn, or a Riverwest basement in the mid-aughts by the time the chorus of album opener “Bombs Away” hits, we fear you’re stuck in 2024 and there’s nothing we can do for you.

Before we delve deeper into the band’s still-very-good swan song, let’s tell you a little more about Paris, Texas in general. Surprisingly, the focus of this “MKE Music Rewind” piece actually took root in Madison. More specifically, the story of Paris, Texas starts in a house located at 112 S. Hancock St. in Wisconsin’s capital where three roommates decided to start a band together with two other friends in December 1997. A month later, a demo was recorded in the basement of friend and future label mate Kaia Fischer (of Rainer Maria). That Valentine’s Day, the new band was playing its first show in Minneapolis in support of Rainer Maria. By the end of 1998, Polyvinyl Records had signed the upstart act and released its self-titled EP. Not too shabby for a band’s first year!

The next two years saw the band releasing its debut album (So, You Think It’s Hot Here?) and an acclaimed EP (2000’s Brazilliant) between routinely winning over fans throughout the country with their spirited mix of indie rock and emo when opening for the likes of Sensefield and Sunday’s Best. Along the way, guitarist Matt Mangan left the band and was replaced by Nolan Treolo. New lineup set, ample touring and writing occurred in the years that immediately followed, as members—most of whom moved to Madison for college—gradually relocated to Milwaukee to join the city’s up-and-coming music scene of the time.

At some point, a demo for Paris, Texas’ peppy and summer-suited anthem called “Hip Replacement” found its way into the hands of a friend who was interning at New Line Records, the in-house record label for the New Line Cinema movie studio. Since launching the music division in 2000, New Line Records released and album by Chicago rockers The Blank Theory and one from The Sounds from Sweden. Ink touched paper, handshakes were exchanged, and Paris, Texas was to become the third band on this unconventional music imprint’s roster.

As you can probably guess, the Milwaukee (by way of Madison’s) New Line Records debut was Like You Like An Arsonist, which we’ve already said is an 11-song, 39-minute powder keg of vim and vigor. It’s virtually all driving guitars, impassioned vocals with catchy lyrics, and even a few welcomed electronic touches for good measure. It’s still as good today as it was when it came out. Between standouts like “Action Fans! Help Us!” and the aforementioned “Bombs Away,” bangers like “White Eyes” and “Strike My Heart,” and the criminally cool title track, Like You Like An Arsonist finds the band at its most focused, polished, tight, and seemingly poised for bigger things to come. And bigger things came.

Whether it happened on the strength of the band’s latest and greatest album, the byproduct of music industry money and influence in the waning months before the bottom fell out or (most likely) some combination of both, these road dogs and a perpetual touring support act managed to play Jimmy Kimmel Live! shortly after Arsonist‘s release.

In early 2005, the album’s namesake single “Like You Like An Arsonist” would be featured on a Season 2 episode of The OC (preceding a song cameo on the same series by Milwaukee’s own Temper Temper later that season). Speaking of Paris, Texas’ television influence, the Season 3 premiere of One Tree Hill that aired in October 2005 was actually named “Like You Like An Arsonist” in direct reference to the band’s song/album.

Of course, we also must acknowledge the, uh, interesting Danny Saber remix of “Bombs Away” that was part of the Blade Trinity motion picture soundtrack in 2004, alongside the likes of artists like RZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, E-40, Kool Keith, and The Crystal Method. That soundtrack—much like soundtracks for films like Sideways, Just Friends, Snakes On A Plane, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and both Sex And The City films—was put out by New Line Records, which no doubt helped this little-known Wisconsin indie quintet wind up being involved.

Unfortunately, all the teen TV drama needle drops and soundtrack placements in the world couldn’t prevent the band’s eventual demise. Before the end of 2005, Paris, Texas had called it quits. Beyond the unthinkable television/film opportunities and tours with noted acts like Jimmy Eat World and Alkaline Trio, this band that formed in a Madison house managed five solid releases…including one that turns 20 this year and still manages to pack a punch after all this time.

Want more Milwaukee Record? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and/or support us on Patreon.


“MKE Music Rewind” archive

About The Author

Avatar photo
Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.