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While he would eventually push music aside for painting, Chris Mars would always be best known for his first artistic endeavor, that of being the drummer for the legendary Minneapolis, MN rock band the Replacements. As the Replacements' star rose proportionally with frontman Paul Westerberg's control of the band, Mars found himself further and further alienated from Westerberg, and he made only brief appearances on the group's final outing, All Shook Down. Before the band could tour to promote the record, Mars quit, and joined up with Minneapolis
"super-group" Golden Smog and spent more time focusing on his painting. In 1992, he released his first solo record, a mostly self-made affair — he not only drummed, but sang and played keyboards and guitars, as well as being the chief songwriter. Titled Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, the LP also included bassist J.D. Foster and featured Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum. Mars' follow-up, 75% Less Fat, released in 1993, featured only himself and Foster, and showed his first attempt at moving away from straightforward rock stylings. His final album, 1995's Tenterhooks, would confirm his intention to move away from rock, mixing jazz, rap, and disco into the mix. He chose not to tour the album, so Syracuse band the Wallmen decided to tour it for him, covering the songs, with a cardboard cutout of Mars standing center-stage. After Tenterhooks, Mars would devote himself full-time to his painting which, inspired by his older brother's schizophrenia, focused on disturbing landscapes and even more disturbing figures and portraits. These images first got showings on his solo records, but would eventually feature in solo exhibitions all over North America. Even though Mars put music aside for his brand of visual art — he wouldn't even mention music in interviews — he got together with former Replacements' bandmates Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson in 2005 to record — vocals only, no drums — two new tracks for an anthology of the band's work. ~ Christopher M. True, Rovi
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