The Dare Brings Back Early-2000s NYC Rock for 12 Joyless Minutes on ‘The Sex EP’

To even comment on the Dare, the provoca-pop project of 27-year-old private-school substitute teacher turned downtown NYC enfant celebre Harrison Patrick Smith, is to have lost the game. The Dare, which released its debut EP last week, feels like a musical pseudo-event, existing only for the purpose of feeding its perpetual-motion publicity machine. Listening to The Sex EP doesn’t do much to ease the feeling that the songs are only tangential to Smith’s nascent project’s overall point. 

More than 12-ish minutes, The Sex EP rages through a karaoke bar stocked with blogged-about cuts from 20 years ago, with maybe a 1975 track thrown in for current-relevance measure. Debut single “Girls” has a Rapture-via-The Man Show feel, its horniness trying to come off as nonchalant, but mostly feeling joyless. The burbling “Sex” has a slightly more existential bent, although the “I’m Too Sexy” cadence of lines like “Sex, to me/It’s just a mystery/And a lie we tell” give the joke away; its laptop-grime-covered coda does at least provide a neat sonic wrinkle. The strongest offering is the final track, the ESG-gone-gentrified instrumental “Bloodwork,” if only because Smith’s petulant vocal takes a back seat; it sounds tailor-made for soundtracking a streaming series’ set piece that follows a chemically altered beautiful person’s descent into some personal hell. 


Some are hailing the Dare as a paragon of “indie sleaze,” a suit-clad throwback to an amalgamated vision of 2000s New York City. It’s an image of Lower Manhattan haunts ruled by the DFA and the MisShapes, of dank bars teeming with American Apparel-clad revelers posing for overexposed photos while drinking Sparks, getting rad, and going to the bathroom in groups. If Smith does represent a certain facet of that overheated moment, it’s the way those dance-punk and electroclash artists were able to garner truckloads of attention with a single song that got people to shed their cool facades and get sweaty. But “Girls” is no “Emerge”; it’s barely “Finding Out True Love Is Blind.” 

What’s next for the Dare? The club tour he’s on right now, which is focused on “intimate” venues in (of course) New York, Los Angeles, and the U.K., will give Smith just enough buzz to graduate to the festival circuit; inevitably he’ll hook up with a Diplo-like figure (or, perhaps, the culture-vulture DJ-producer himself) for a collaborative single that fancies itself as miles more transgressive than it actually is. Should his album come out later this year as promised, expect even more press from media outlets staffed by young hopefuls who have tried not to act star-struck when bumping into him at bars. That’ll lead to more photo spreads, more hype, more depictions of Xeroxed excess. (Perhaps he’ll even garner an “I was wrong” mea culpa from some writer who was scratching her head over him a few months prior.) Or maybe the hype train will roll on with a few playlists in its wake, and when the Dare comes on shuffle, it’ll elicit a smirk, and someone saying, “Hey. Remember the early ‘20s? That was weird, huh.”