Truly great songwriting can transcend gimmickry, but for Portland, OR hip-hop trio Lifesavas, great songwriting fleshes out some substantive musical qualities while exposing a few weaknesses. The group’s second release, Gutterfly is a "concept" album that resurrects the funk of ‘70s Blaxploitation; but the narrative tale, chronicling characters with names like Bumpy Johnson and Sleepy Floyd, is weak at best. Songs like “No Surprise” and “A Serpent’s Love” are rife with intelligent lyrics, raw deliveries and beats that shine with a cool but charged vibe in the traditions of Gift of Gab's 4th Dimensional Rocketships or A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory. But the vague conceptual interludes draw attention away from the album’s brightest moments. The Fishbone cameo in “Dead Ones” pulls you right out of the moment, as do appearances from George Clinton, Vernon Reid and the likes. Each of these songs stand on their own merits, but the distractions and extraneous material clip the wings off of what is an otherwise excellent album.