Freedom of Speech?

Just watch what you say -- and make sure you credit the people who wrote the music that's playing while you say it

It had scarcely settled into its cradle after the last cry for help when the scarlet Bandwidth TipLine telephone rang anew. This time, the call was from local singer/guitarist Chris Bright, complaining of censorship. Bandwidth -- which cannot stomach oppression in any form -- was on the case. Since Bright appeared on Local Artists Against Terrorism, a work already examined in this column due to its First Amendment pressure-testing ("The S-N Word," March 28, 2002), we were understandably intrigued. Bright's contribution to that comp ("Sometimes") isn't offensive in the least, just gritty folk-rock narrated by his gruff growl. So what did Bright do at Octopus's Garden in downtown Hollywood on the night of April 24 to earn himself an invite to leave the stage?

A pretty little ditty called "You Suck in Bed," as it turns out. That night at "Octopussy's Garden, as we somewhat affectionately call it," reports the tall, thin, long-haired Bright, the bar hosted a jam session with house-band Top Secret. When Bright sat in with the cover band that evening, he broke out an acoustic version of "Sometimes" that he says went down well, before leading the band through "You Suck in Bed." He's performed the song at other venues since with nary a problem.

"I like that kind of vulgar stuff," admits Top Secret guitarist/leader Joe Waryas, who confirms that, based on audience reaction to the tune, he and the club's owner decided Bright's face time that evening had reached an end. "I'm being censored!" Bright yelled on his way off. In a subsequent call to Bandwidth, he denies that his song made anyone uncomfortable. "I think the women really dug it," Bright says. "It was great. It was a moment, man!"

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Sorry you missed it? Bright channels his discontent into vindictive disses like those found on Trash and Other Love Songs, available through Full Moon Records, Dania Beach (954-924-9244). The high point of the fully plugged-in cheese-metal is Bright's voice, which approximates rusty garbage-disposal blades doing a slow gnaw on a steak knife. It's miles over the top and hard to listen to with a straight face -- and that's good. "You Suck in Bed" lets an ex-lover know that "You suck in bed/I'm not talking head/It's like fucking the dead." Bright's venom doesn't run out there. "Your boyfriend's a dick, and so are you," he strafes another former friend elsewhere. "You're a piece of shit, and he is too!" Yet, on the liner notes, he takes care to issue a "special thanks to all the women without whom these songs never would have been written... what goes around comes around."

"Every song I do is a true story," Bright explains cheerfully, adding that he designed his compositions to help others. "So you can watch out for people like this in your life and call them on it. And I'm callin' everybody on that -- if you're playing with me, I'm gonna write a song about you."

"The beats you know, the word you'll come to know," promises Scripture Beats by Word of Mouth, the product of a Pembroke Pines religious label, Psalm 808 Records. Volume one in the Scripture Beats series is a verbatim rap-styled reading of the New International Version of the Holy Bible. And the beats are indeed familiar: For instance, "James, Chapter 4 (Dirty South)" lays down the verse atop the bling-blingin' chassis of "Roll Out." Joseph and Suzanne Brown, the husband-and-wife duo whose tag-team narrative is bound to shake up the staid, sleepy world of audio Bible products, take some liberties with songwriting credits -- by not including any.

"The beats are from various rap instrumentals such as Li'l Kim, Biggie, and Nas to name a few," says 808 flack Karen Novell. The pair also overestimated how well lines such as "To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia..." would mesh with the streetwise rhythms. That is to say, not very.

"While there may be resistance to Scripture Beats from some of the Christian Traditionalists, this will quickly crumble," predicts the press materials, ignoring those staunchly conservative Hip-Hop Traditionalists who may well find the rappin' New Testament equally wack. "Peter, Chapter 2," set to the feculent Jimmy Page/Puff Daddy revision of "Kashmir," is sure to have a few purists shouting blasphemy. The point of the whole exercise, of course, is to put a little Jesus in the ear of kids via "the music they love."

Had James and Peter just designed their gospel with a little more attention to flow, Scripture Beats might stand a better chance of connecting with its intended audience.

 
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