Written by: Alex Green
Don’t be fooled by this album’s polite introduction–Robb Benson and Johnny Sangster are not meeting for the first time.
In fact, Benson and Sangster are bandmates, playing together in Seattle’s well-known The Dear John Letters.
That being said, the album may not be a first time meeting of two musicians, but it is a rather fascinating musical exercise that finds two guys who love pop music trading hooks, each one trying to top the last in the goal of reaching utterly dizzying pop immediacy. That is not to say, however, that Sangster Meets Benson/Benson Meets Sangster is a case of creative one-upmanship–on the contrary, it’s a case of two wildly talented artists completing each other’s musical sentences with what amounts to an appetizing confluence of colossal pop genius.
The album finds Benson, (who was the singer for the much-missed Nevada Bachelors), and Sangster (who played guitar and sang for Denmark’s The Sharing Patrol and more recently Seattle’s Congratulators), joining forces to make one of the best albums of 2002.
The album begins with Sangster’s bittersweet “I Contest This Letter,” a spare tale of heartbreak that sets the tone for the next track, Benson’s “The Book Of Water,” which is a gentle McCartney-like number that is utterly gorgeous. For all of its highlights, the album’s piece de resistance is “Love=Love (The Medley),” a seamless six-song suite of pure pop perfection. Starting with “We’re Building A Rusty Shack,” which is as good as anything off Imperial Bedroom, it deftly segues into the blissful thrills of “Static Friction,” and “I Gave You My Back,” before tumbling gracefully into the meditative “Probably Newspaper Smiles” which then impossibly morphs into the freestyling pop scat of “Little Piece of Second Best,” before finally ending with a tale of the girl you always wanted to know in “Maybeline The Disco Queen.”
A rather perfect album, yes, and also and ambitious and successful experiment that not only showcases Sangster and Benson’s pop chops, but also their ability to nimbly change musical gears before you knew you were even in the car.