Listening to Syl Sylvain’s solo records, you’d never guess he was once a member of the dreaded, subversive New York Dolls. For one thing, he’s an absolutely winsome singer, the perfect punk-with-a-heart-of-gold who seems to be striking an “aw, shucks!” pose at the mic. For another, his records are glistening, rocking pop with no hard edges, plenty of ingratiating melodies and lots of pizzazz. One of the fun things about Syl is trying to spot all the elements his eclecticism has absorbed. Over the course of these two LPs, he borrows from salsa, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Gary Lewis and the Playboys and many more.
Sylvain’s solo debut features the breathless “14th Street Beat,” an ode to the Big Apple; the better-focused follow-up (with different musical associates) heightens the romantic angle with such tunes as “I Can’t Forget Tomorrow,” “Just One Kiss” and “It’s Love.” Pure charm.
’78 Criminals is a compilation of singles Sylvain did with various bands, including the Criminals, following the Dolls’ collapse.