The next threat to our troops in Iraq: Lee Harding

Lee Harding
Like anyone with even part of an intact brain these days, I’m not a massive fan of the war in Iraq. But – to echo the caveat given by every American Democrat – I don’t want anyone to think I’m against Our Troops. On the contrary. I think they’re magnificently brave for going to Iraq, which is still an appallingly dangerous place. Because instead of welcoming us with “open arms”, as we were promised, the Iraqis are welcoming us with just plain arms. So, I say good on the troops for representing Australia’s national interest in sucking up to America no matter how stupid the cause. I really respect their bravery. Which is why I don’t think they should have to be ‘entertained‘ by Lee Harding.

In case you’ve forgotten who he is – and who could blame you? – Harding is the annoying punk with multicoloured hair from Australian Idol. He’s released an album, What’s Wrong With This Picture. To which the answer is surely obvious, if it’s a picture of his hair.

Still doesn’t ring a bell? Read Wikipedia’s incredibly harsh description, which refreshingly violates their ‘neutrality’ rule:

The image that Lee Harding has come to associate himself with has come under fire from many aspects of the music community, and the consumer public in general. Many fans of punk rock music accuse Lee of being ignorant of what punk really is, and simply marketing himself in a watered-down version suitable for viewers of Australia Idol. He’s also been targeted as blatantly forging his career in a mainstream environment with big-label backing, akin to “selling out” (although that term implies a degree of integrity existed in the first place). Many critics of this manufactured artist laughed at the irony in the title of his first album, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”. Many label Lee as a poseur of the punk-music industry, who compromises his interpretation of punk with what suits a more commercial market. Sadly, many people despise him for his idiocy and stupidity. He lacks interest and “flavour”, and some claim he is a stereotype and a loser.

Harding’s also become increasingly known for the tastelessness of his lyrics, as Wikipedia points out:

He has also come under recent criticism over the lyrics to his track “Call The Nurse”, in which he warbles: Cos I need drugs, I need drugs, something that works. It ain’t good, cos I get wood, lying here, thinking of her, more than I should. Many parents have consequently banned their children from listening to Lee Harding’s debut album.

And really, if kids aren’t listening to Harding, who is? Apart from our unfortunate troops, I mean.

Although for sheer insensitivity I prefer the lyric from his first single ‘Wasabi’, where he, in a desperately contrived attempt to rhyme with the Japanese horseradish dip, says a girl is “like a tsunami / could wipe out an army”. Specifically, an army of 229,866 innocent people. An appalling tragedy has never had such a glib lyrical reference.

Perhaps he’ll update it for the Iraq situation? “Like al-Zarqawi / could wipe out an army” would scan beautifully.

And Lee, if you read this, here’s a freebie for your next album: “She takes me up to heaven / Like those killed on 9/11”. Just give me some of your royalties, would you?

(Actually, to be fair – or in fact, even harsher – it’s not like Lee actually writes his own lyrics.)

Just how unpopular is Harding? Even the Herald-Sun – not generally the arbiter of cool – mocks him, calling him a “punk wannabe” and “faux-punkster”. That’s gotta hurt – it’s like being dissed by your nan.

And fair enough. Even though he sings over thrashy guitar, his vocals have that irritating trademark Idol inflection – too much whiny vibrato, the hallmark of a singer with no taste. He’s like a member of N’Sync whose head’s been hit by several paintbombs. Really, no punk would ever sing like that. In fact, no rock star of any description would ever sing so effetely (if you don’t believe me, check out his latest single.) Even Shannon Noll makes him look like a wuss.

Harding calls it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience”, which I guess it will be if he’s immediately killed.

Look, I shouldn’t be too harsh on the guy – he’s a soft target (and I’m sure the insurgents will think so too.) And at least he’s trying to help as well as resuscitate his career. Plus, there’s a long and proud tradition of great artists going to entertain troops, including one of my favourite American comedians, Al Franken.

As hard as it is for someone who enjoys sitting on his backside as much as I do to relate to the plight of an Aussie soldier, I strongly suspect that if I was stuck in Iraq, terrified that the insurgents were going to kill me, having Harding come to sing wouldn’t exactly brighten my day.

Although his willingness to go over there has inspired this weary cynic to actually believe in something for a change. Conscription.

Dominic Knight

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