Sweet Baby was among the first East Bay/Gilman Street punk bands to be picked up by an established record label — five years before Green Day dookied on the Reprise roster — and paid the typical price for such ground-breaking. Said label consigned an incredibly catchy, joyful record to undue obscurity.
Singer Dallas Denery and singer/guitarist Matt Buenrostro formed the quartet as Sweet Baby Jesus in 1986 with Mr. T Experience singer/ guitarist Dr. Frank on two-piece drum kit and Crispy Jim (so dubbed for his affinity for the English band Crispy Ambulance) on bass. Dr. Frank and Crispy were soon replaced by Sergie Loobkoff and Richard Bucher, respectively. Sweet Baby broke up in late 1987 without releasing a record — but reformed in 1988 when Slash Records signed the group to its Ruby imprint on the strength of a Kevin Army-produced demo. The result, It’s a Girl!, is a stunningly infectious, simple pop punk record; equal parts Ramones, Beatles, Undertones, Beach Boys and Chiffons. Denery and Buenrostro harmonize like punk rock Everly Brothers atop frenetically strummed layers of major chords and a basic, pounding beat that never stops (although it is a bit off at times). Nearly all of the 13 songs (total running time about 25 minutes) deal with the kind of young love that would not sound out of place on a ’50s rock’n’roll record, with charming energy and earnest exuberance to match. Highlights include “Gotta Get a Girl,” “Proove My Love” and the one-minute masterpiece “Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby (I Love You),” but every song has excitement and vocal hooks galore.
It’s a Girl! barely saw the light of day — reportedly, only a thousand of the record’s initial 10,000 pressing even made it to stores. During Sweet Baby’s 1989 tour, Aaron Cometbus (Cometbus fanzine publisher and former Crimpshine and Pinhead Gunpowder member) replaced Loobkoff, and Ivy DuBois (ex-Kamala and the Karnivores) replaced Bucher. The group broke up that year.
The Sweet Baby half of Hello Again joins the band’s first demo with a raw acoustic session of just Denery and Buenrostro. The demo offers raw versions of Sweet Baby originals, including such otherwise unreleased gems as “Andorra,” “Saw You at the Movies” and “Certified American.” The loose acoustic numbers range from stripped-down versions of typical Denery/Buenrostro compositions (“Just Call Me Baby,” “Lets All Go to Europe”) to short, silly toss-offs (“Somewhere in Germany,” “Why,” a 30-second ditty whose title is almost the only lyric) to a retro-sounding original that could have been written for a young Ricky Nelson (“Baby I Love You,” which is not at all like “Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby (I Love You)” Got that?).
Dallas Denery later formed the Bomb Bassets with his brother, John Denery of the Hi-Fives, Kevin Army and the Mr. T Experience.