For so many of the Edge's listeners, "The Adventure Club" serves the same function as the old "Rock and Roll Alternative" did in the mid-'80s. With a rich, varied playlist that runs the gamut from brand-new Brit import to advance tracks from forthcoming indie LPs to golden-oldies to local talent, this show serves as both an introduction to what's new and a reminder of what was once so great about "alternative rock and roll."

Coming through the speakers, Venable and co-host Kevin McAlester sound more like devout music fans than polished jocks (hence, the main difference between "Adventure Club" and "R&R Alternative"), each arguing his case for a favorite song while the other feigns disinterest or dislike. Theirs is a unique relationship in local radio, one built on friendship and respect (for each other, for the bands), and one that always includes the audience in the listening experience.


"Infested," Course of Empire (Zoo Entertainment)

This time last year, Course of Empire snagged this very award for this very song (notice to nominating committee: this isn't the Grammys; no repeats), which, as we stressed then and now, was meant as a joke--the fusion of Benny Goodman's galloping "Sing, Sing, Sing" with Course's brooding, apocalyptic disco-rock. And, as guitarist Mike Graff added, the idea belonged not to the band but producer David Castell, who assembled the whole concept into a brilliant package.

"We're trying to hold back the reins on [Zoo Entertainment, the band's label] pushing the single too much because we don't want people getting the idea we are a joke remix," Graff said last year--though, in retrospect, it might not be a bad idea to redo all of Initiation with big-band remixes. (Sidebar: "Infested" was eligible this year because it was released in November 1993, but the album from which it was taken came out in January 1994.)

Ironically, of all the "singles" nominated this year--also the Grown-Ups' giddy 10-inch on Direct Hit and Bedhead's mini-masterpiece 4SongCDEP19:10 on Trance Syndicate--only the rubberbullet "Entangled/Grinning Bitches" seven-inch on Last Beat Records fits the strictest definition: it's a 45 RPM slab of vinyl with a giant hole in the middle, to be played on one of the 284 turntables still left in America.


Crystal Clear Sound

Throughout the years, Dallas has been overrun with tiny independent record labels; there were probably more 30 or 40 years ago than today. From Star Talent to Blue Bonnet, from Longhorn to White Rock, from Abnak to GPC--some boasted legendary names, others were vanity projects, all faded from memory even before they released their last single.

The so-called "indie" record company once flourished here, long before Dragon Street scooped up Tripping Daisy and Hagfish, long before Last Beat and Direct Hit and Leaning House and Carpe Diem ever set up shop. Though they all have the potential and the bands to flourish, only time will tell whether these names will be remembered as the Sub Pops or Drag Citys (or, in the case of Leaning House, the Blue Note) of Texas, or whether they, too, will vanish from the history books.

Whatever its fate down the line, Crystal Clear has already made its mark as Dallas' own version of a miniature major record label--with its own studio, the means to distribute and manufacture CDs, and owner Sam Paulos, likely the most powerful man in local music. Paulos is so powerful, in fact, that Crystal Clear manufactures and distributes almost every other label in town.

When Paulos bought the crumbling Crystal Clear Sound in August 1990, it was, as he has said, a "demo-class studio with an album-class engineer" in producer Keith Rust. After funneling thousands of dollars into a major redo, bands began renting out the studio to the tune of nearly 300 hours a month; this year's Best Album winner, Reverend Horton Heat's Liquor in the Front, was recorded there, as was the Old 97's Hitchhike to Rhome. Though it distributes dozens of albums, some of which bear the Crystal Clear logo, it has released only two albums that actually belong to Crystal Clear--Mildred's 1991 Whippersnapper and the brand-new Sixty-Six debut CD. Sixty-Six's album is actually on the Steve Records label, an imprint Paulos created to separate his label from Crystal Clear's distribution side, which has also handled the likes of the Dixie Chicks and, once upon a time, Killbilly.

Paulos has Sixty-Six, among the best bands in town, signed to a moderately long-term contract, which means that if a major label wanted to sign Bill Longhorse and the rest of the band, they would have to buy out the contract and the recordings from Crystal Clear. But Paulos and Longhorse's intentions reach far beyond one release. Like the smart businessmen and wise artists they are, they approach their partnership as an investment, allowing the band to build a following even as its members grow as musicians rather than trying to pursue a major-label deal that may or may never come.

But make no mistake: "For us, we're concerned with selling records," Paulos told the Observer last December. "Every step of our involvement in recording, manufacturing, and distribution is geared toward selling records. Having the band signed to a major is secondary to us.

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