With a roster boasting heavyweights like Blackalicious, DJ Shadow and Lyrics Born fans have come to expect great things from the Quannum crew's brand of conscious Hip Hop. Back for their sophomore outing, Portland trio Lifesavas have taken on the personas of Sleepy Floyd, Bumpy Johnson, and Jimmy Slimwater, portrayed by Jumbo the Garbageman, Vursatyl, and DJ Shines respectively. Billed as an original soundtrack - albeit to a movie that doesn't exist - Gutterfly is a journey through the mean streets of Razorblade City, a setting right out of a blaxploitation flick, where funk is king. They rhyming is handled by Vurs and Jumbo, who also handles most of the production while mixing in lots of live instrumentation as well.
Obviously with a blaxploitation theme there is a heavy 70's funk and soul influence, and that vibe is definitely created successfully. The problem with that is not only that it gets redundant after awhile, but also that it tends to blend together in spots and fails to really hold attention. While there are no tracks that fail miserably, there aren't very many truly amazing moments either. The most shining exception would be "Freedom Walk" featuring Dead Prez and Vernon Reid of Living Colour, who lends his talents on the guitar.
Another gem is "Night Out," a two part tale of racial profiling and a robbery gone awry featuring The King of Interplanetary Funksmanship himself, George Clinton. The thing both of these songs have in common is the fact that they have a lot of substance to them, which is important when you're making a concept album that only utilizes a vague resemblance of a cohesive story. Another similarity I think it's important to point out is that both of these songs feature other artists contributions, and it seems like said situation seems to really push Vurs and Jumbo to step it up themselves. That being said, when forced to hold it down on their own things can get a little dull. A prime example is "Shine Language," a song with a great name that has duo trying too hard over a very monotonous beat.
For the most part, the flaws of this record have a lot to do with "style over substance". The overall funkiness is amazing, and done well, but not very original at all. Vursatyle has been quoted as saying "The goal was anybody who picked up the Lifesavas record could dig it. Anybody could take something from the Lifesavas record and enjoy it," but it seems like they may have played it a little too safe. None of the music seems to challenge the listener or the artists and that makes it feel a little blander than it actually is. In short, this is the type of music that ends up becoming background atmosphere, and not the type of record I would go and recommend to a friend (which I did with Spirit In Stone). It's worth checking out just for the consistent smoothness of the production and several stellar guest appearances but don't expect to be blown away.