Graham Smith & KGW
Tue Sep 2 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
Free download or no, a double album still comes with a huge target attached. Some critics will never tire of assailing marathon releases, proclaiming that they would have been better at half the length. But please, hold your fire in the case of the two-hour, 36-track Yes Boss by Graham Smith, the Chicago-reared Staten Islander best known as the leader of Kleenex Girl Wonder. Available on a pay-what-you-will basis exclusively through the bedroom-pop prodigy’s home page ( hbinfo.pbwiki.com), the release—complete with copious alternate takes—is indisputably overstuffed. But that seems only appropriate, considering the unflinching rawness of the emotions chronicled within. My love life is a sprawling jumble, Smith seems to assert, and so is my record.
But what a gripping jumble, filled with ultraliterate songs—relentlessly hooky despite frequently lacking conventional choruses—in which a cutesy demeanor can conceal a devastating observation. If the I in these songs isn’t autobiographical, Yes Boss nevertheless traffics in precarious emotional fieldwork: “High Tech Computer Magician,” for example, painstakingly surveys a relationship’s dissolution via 210 seconds of gradually intensifying power pop. Throughout the record, Smith twists phrases like shivs (“Why do you have to be so generously cryptic / Oh, I ask you for a pencil sketch, you hammer out a triptych”), portraying himself, his partners and his frienemies with equally scathing clarity. Whether you measure in terms of length, verbosity or psychological heft, the results are unwieldy, but they ring absolutely true.