The name explicitly hearkens back to the age of wide suit lapels and blockbuster stunt-casting movies. And the surnames of the three musicians in the group – Kelly, Sullivan and Dolan – might lead one to guess the band is based somewhere on the Emerald Isle. But the music has more to do with very late ‘70s and early 1980s new wave-flavored power pop. With staccato rhythm guitar and a cracking crackling rhythm section, The Airport 77s make an appealing, energetic sound. All three musicians sing, and that provides opportunities for some tidy vocal harmony work atop their gleaming, propulsive tunes.
Sure, “One Good Thing About Summer” may lead listeners to think of The Cars, Shoes and similarly melodic rocking outfits of a certain era. The trio is certainly a guitar-oriented group, though some uncredited keyboard textures (as on “Birthday Girl” figure subtly into the mix. The bass and guitar work is inventive and muscular, and primary songwriter Andy Sullivan knows how to sharpen a hook and work it into a song. And the band is exceedingly clever in the best way possible. Listen to “Somebodies” and find yourself surprised when the rocker shifts gears midway through for a bridge that inevitably conjures memories of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line.” Didn’t see that coming. But I’m glad it came.
Uncluttered production (presumably) gives listeners a taste of what The Airport 77s would sound like onstage. And I’d pay good money to find out if that’s the case. Apparently the Silver Springs, Maryand based group rarely ventures much beyond the DC area and that part of the Eastern seaboard, but if they come your way, do check ‘em out. Meantime, their latest is a very good record, far above most of the insipid pap that purports to be powerpop.