The Heels are made up of a bunch of old timers, or experienced veterans of the punk scene if you will, and they are hell bent on reclaiming hardcore from those “namby pamby whiners wearing white belts and stamping their feet like a bunch of little boys complaining about having to eat their vegetables.” That is quite a statement from this band, which features members of Pagan Babies, Limecell and Rancid Vat.
What you get here from the Philadelphia, Pa.-based band is a sound that is, for the main part, big and ballsy, occasionally reminding me at times of the Uniform Choice album, Staring Into The Sun, when they grew some hair and started adding huge chunks of metal to their music. Now to some that might sound like a winning formula but personally it means that some of the songs on here just do not work for me. That would certainly fit for those where the guitar solos are pulled out of the bag and just wail away adding nothing to the songs. In the '80s that approach never really did anything for me and although my tastes have broadened in my middle age, I’m still not a fan of such blatant metallic guitar.
Undisputed, therefore, becomes an album that I could almost split down the middle as to what I am able to enjoy and that which I can’t. With the songs that I do like including “Forever,” “Back In The Day,” “12th June 1967” and “True Path,” I hear influences from bands such as 7 Seconds, Circle Jerks and early Suicidal Tendencies (before the latter went down the metal path themselves). In fact “True Path” totally steals a guitar riff from 7 Seconds’ “Message From A Friend,” so much so that I’m almost expecting the lyrics from that song to kick in whilst the Heels are doing their own track.
Lyrically you won’t find much to change the world here but it is often hard to find new subject matter in this genre. “Back In The Day” is a track about…well, it doesn’t really need me to explain what it’s about but it does seem to name check a lot of the big bands of the late '70s and early '80s and look back fondly on those days. The one massive plus point for the Heels is the song “12th June 1967,” which is clearly intent on celebrating the day that the U.S. Supreme Court ended laws against interracial marriages. The lyrics go on to express hope that racial bigotry is reduced in every subsequent generation, as I’m guessing, that like myself, the band are pragmatists and don’t expect such evil thinking can be eradicated in one fell swoop.
From the highs to the lows, and it would be remiss of me not to note that due to excessive guitar work, “Hitchhiker” is not one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. This with a fistful of others just do nothing for me as they lack any kind of spark or just sound particularly retro in a style I was never keen on in the first place. I do appreciate that some people might like that sound but it’s not for me
As a summary, I don’t doubt the band’s intentions in picking up the instruments to reclaim a genre that they might feel has been watered down, but the end result is a bit of a mixed bag with some decent, enjoyable tracks alongside some that fall someway short of providing musical gratification for me.