Lifesavas

Gutterfly

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Despite initial claims that the record was based off a never-completed blaxpoitation movie of the same name, Gutterfly, the Portland, OR hip-hop group Lifesavas' second release, is in fact an original creation, inspired by the MCs' love of cult film and their desire to push their sound forward. Although it's not exactly a concept album, Gutterfly does keep some constant themes in mind, and its dramatic nature gives Jumbo the Garbage Man and Vursatyl the opportunity to show off different sides of their personalities. The songs themselves don't necessarily advance the plot, but the sporadic "Scenes" (there are six official ones, plus one that's hidden) help to explain the back-story, the two characters, Bumpy Johnson and Sleepy Floyd, as they try to get by in their hometown, Razorblade City. As in Spirit in Stone, the duo's debut, there's a fair amount of socially conscious, politically oriented hip-hop here ("Freedom Walk," "Shine Language") as well as general positive messages ("Dead Ones," "Celebrate"), but there's also a darkness, a grittiness that exists that hadn't been seen before, found in tales of racial profiling, violence, and revenge. As rappers, Lifesavas are on top of their game, playing with rhythm and metaphor, mixing in R&B hooks, and sounding good doing it all. The production (most of which is handled by Jumbo, but Vurs, DJ Rev Shines, Vitamin D, Jake One, and Oh No also contribute) is still super-smooth and melodic, with plenty of live horns (including sax from Fishbone's Angelo Moore on "Dead Ones"), bass, keys, guitar (from Living Colour's Vernon Reid and the Decemberists' Chris Funk), and strings, but the DJ cuts, the pounding drum tracks, give the songs a kind of primal urgency, reinforcing the "urban-survival" motif that drives the record. Gutterfly's sole problem seems to come from the fact that it's so concentrated on the overall idea of being an "album" that sometimes individual tracks can get lost behind, or under, the greater themes presented, which unfortunately takes away from its power. Still, on the whole, it's a cohesive, effective accomplishment.

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