There’s no shortage of talent in Washington, so any artists hoping to distinguish themselves among the many music hopefuls here are in for a challenge. However that hasn’t deterred “Underdog Champs,” a metro-based pop punk band, from striving to make their mark on D.C.’s music world. After releasing two singles earlier this year, the group finally debuted their first EP, “Picked Last,” last Saturday.
While composed of only three tracks, this EP does manage to cover all the bases necessary for a complete-sounding record. Most importantly, it does not sound messy or confused. Mark Bradley, one of the group’s vocalists, states that their main focus is “to write the best possible song regardless of genre,” though it’s clear that this band, at its core, is pure rock. Other members of the quartet include Nick Jones, who plays guitar and does some vocals, Josh Bailey on drums and Justin Mason on bass.
The first track is entitled “Love Songs.” An up-tempo, angsty number where the drums and the strings engage in a sort of chaotic back and forth meshing well with the song’s mood, alternating between sadness and anger. Bradley’s vocals manage not to get lost in all the mix-up, and remain steady throughout the track’s entirety. However, “Love Songs” suffers from lyricism that brims with cliches as it overuses the age-old metaphor of comparing love to swimming. Still, some might argue that no love song is complete without a bit of triteness. So perhaps this can be overlooked.
Up next is the EP’s title song, “Picked Last,” which packs another up-tempo emotional punch, but it is a little less gloomy. The guitar particularly stands out. While the chords are not especially complex, they’re enough to cause the audience to pay extra attention.
Lastly is “Sedative” which, like its title suggests, slows things down and manages to show the group’s softer side. Perhaps the best lyrically out of all the songs on the EP, “Sedative” is a creative and inventive track displaying the band’s versatile abilities
Overall, “Picked Last” is an EP that sounds like youth. It’s a record that should be relatable to most teens and twenty-somethings dealing with the complications of identity and relationships. For older generations, this would most definitely appear to be a record of nostalgia, reminiscent of the days when everything seemed like a big deal. This is a romantic record, not only because of its lyrical subject matter, but also because of the way that it is unapologetically vulnerable.
But while “Picked Last” definitely establishes that this group is indeed musically talented, especially instrumentally, it falls short of landing the band on anyone’s “artist to watch” list. This is not to say the band lacks the capacity to, perhaps one day, break into super stardom. Instead, it is better to say that they have yet to reach their full potential as this EP fails to differentiate the group from the many other punk acts out there. However, with a bit more push, exploration and experimentation as artists, Underdog Champs could possibly shed their “underdog” status.