I remember being scandalized at the idea of a Lil Wayne rock album back in 2010. Coming out of a decade in which there was nothing more egregious than combining guitars with rap music after rap-rock did to Rage Against the Machine what grunge did to Nirvana, Wayne’s post-grunge/electropop phase—like Nas sampling Iron Butterfly a few years earlier—seemed like a soon-to-be forgotten misstep rather than a premonition of what would soon become acceptable within rap, which was slogging through a rare moment of closed-mindedness (Danny Brown’s rejection from G-Unit due to the fit of his skinny jeans feels like a pretty apt metaphor for popular hip-hop in the 2000s). Shortly after, Chiddy Bang (remember Chiddy Bang?) proved there was a market for rap that crossed over with Lollapalooza-core rock and electronic music, which, if nothing else, felt like a prelude to the animated meet-cute that was Kanye’s ears and Robert Fripp’s elaborate riffs, and the bizarrely prominent influence of prog-rock on popular rap that followed.
Yet listening to the new EP from Paris Texas, the duo of childhood friends Louie Pastel and Felix, takes you back to 2011 when “Pumped Up Kicks” was the ubiquitous antidote to dubstep. At the beginning of 2021, the bold intro to Boy Anonymous took the form of the aggressively titled “Heavy Metal,” which skirts the trendy gravitation toward punk and metal aesthetics in pop and rap in favor of a garage-y guitar riff that unfolds into a fairly White Stripes-y bridge (the video, though, is metal as hell). It feels like a half-misnomer in sort of the same way “Paris Texas” does: aesthetically, the duo is worlds apart from the Wim Wenders film they share a name with, though there’s a certain quarter-life-crisis malaise evident from the cloud-rap opener “Casino” onward.
Nothing else on the EP reaches that “Heavy Metal” level of intensity, with most of the other tracks (“Situations” in particular) recalling the neon pop-rock album covers of the early ’10s. But it all feels like it reaches that same level of counter-cultural—a rare feat in a moment when somehow everything seems to be in style—with the pair trading verses over guitar strums that range from grimy solos on “A Quick Death” to cool strums on standout closer “Force of Habit,” with their lyrics bouncing back and forth between bars hyperbolizing dick measurements and crude recollections of jerking off into socks growing up (I actually don’t think I’ve heard this much phallic imagery since taking college lit courses). Whether or not this is just a rock phase they’ll evolve out of, it feels like Paris Texas’ style is unique enough that it’s worth keeping an eye on.