When the seminal Minneapolis pop/punk band the Replacements broke up in the early 90's, most fans set their sights on singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg to carry on the soul-deep, hook-heavy sound the group had forged over the past decade. While Westerberg has managed to release some tasty nuggets over the years, drummer Chris Mars nailed the angst and sullen energy of the early 'Mats best with his debut solo album, "Horseshoes And Hand Grenades." From the bitter, anti-clique anthem of "Popular Creeps," (an eerily accurate aural portrait of high school cruelty in a pre-Columbine-shootings pop world, with lines like, "...gather up the clowns/to cut 'em down/they better leave the stoners alone...") to driving odes to alienation, ("Outer Limits," "City Lights On Mars") Mars' talents as a songwriter and musician absolutely blaze out of this classic. Handling drums, guitar, keys, and vocal duties, this (nearly) one-man band oozed out more energy and chutzpah than his former group had mustered since 1984's Let It Be. Able assistance is provided on a few tracks by Soul Asylum members Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy, but there's no doubt whose project this is. Mars went on to a successful career as a visual artist, releasing some interesting albums sporadically, (1995's Tenterhooks is worth a spin) but Horseshoes... remains his most poignant statement to date, and continues to stand as a challenge to Westerberg and others of his ilk. Popular creeps, indeed.
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Review
by Tom Hallett