Who knew a little four-track EP could draw so much ire?

I wouldn’t have even heard about The Dare’s release of The Sex this past spring if it weren’t for QAnon conservatives blowing their lids over its saucy cover on social media, accusing the DJ and the label Republic Records of overt pedophilia.

Because apparently women in their 20s don’t wear tennis skirts and UGGs?

Well, the controversy did what blown over controversies do and catapulted The Sex into mainstream conversation. While conservatives relished in their manufactured confirmation that everyone’s a pedophile, the New York music intelligentsia were quick to knock The Dare down a few pegs, proclaiming he and his horny little EP is “joyless” and “not very cool” and “not as transgressive as he would like you to believe.”

I don’t think words like “cool” or “transgressive” hold much water these days, but I do agree that The Dare has a penchant for indie sleaze nostalgia of the late 2000s. Why are we surprised that a 27-year-old wants to bring back hard-hitting electropop from a time before the puritanical and shame-laden era of the 2010s? Likely because (as unbelievable as it seems in 2023) what people on both sides of the culture war can agree on is that SEX = BAD, and are quick to loathe and decry sleaziness, horniness, and flagrant hedonism at every turn.

Even feminists are at odds between what is exploitative and what is self-expressive. Just look at all the pearl-clutching over HBO’s The Idol. If the show is bad, it’s not because of its horniness. It’s because The Weeknd has next to no sex appeal onscreen.

Really, what these overeducated music writers are doing is overthinking it. You don’t need a 1,200-word essay about why The Sex isn’t sexy. That’s subjective. What’s not subjective is that once you put it on, people are going to bop their heads, jump up, and shake their asses.

Sexual repression and revulsion was always an American thing, but it used to only come from the squares and right-wingers. Now that squares come in left-wing flavors, we have to hear about the woes of retro American Apparel revivals and why no one should ever listen to Uffie again.

Yeah, so what if The Sex sounds like a few tracks off of Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles? I’ll take a sleazy 2000s revival over an emo 2000s revival any day. Never mind taste, sleazy gave us style in a post-9/11, post-cultural era where nothing had style.

The Dare, formally known as Harrison Patrick Smith, is a product of the Dimes Square scene in New York, a scene also disdained by the intelligentsia. Being a fixture of the West Coast all my life, I don’t know much about the nuances of Dimes Square, but I’m not against any kind of culture popping up in major cities these days—where developers are hellbent on ensuring nothing interesting will ever happen again.

Is The Sex cool or transgressive? Is it trying to be? The Dare is hardly reinventing the wheel. The track names—”Girls,” “Sex,” “Good Time,” “Bloodwork”—are laid out in haiku simplicity.

“Girls” is a summer banger, pure and simple, replete with bars like “Girls who got so much hair on they ass, it clogs the drain/ I like girls who got degrees/ Girls on killin’ sprees,” it’s sure to move bodies out by the pool, in the club, or in the car on the way to the UFO festival. We don’t have many hits being produced these days. And in 2023, with America falling into the black hole of all-consuming corporatism where, for culture and art, there is no escape, I’ll take The Sex as a win.

And if things weren’t provocative enough, I’ll send you off with Dimes Square luminary Dasha Nekrasova staying ahead of the culture war.

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Brent L. Smith is the author of Edendale Society, Nation of Dirty Assholes, Pipe Dreams on Pico, and his latest Gambling Hell in No Time (Far West Press, TBA). For nearly a decade, Brent was senior contributing writer for Flaunt Magazine & music editor for Janky Smooth, covering the 2010s garage rock wave & traversing the occult dimensions of Hollywood. As copy editor, his recent projects include Ritual by Damien Echols & The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Beginners. He’s been commissioned to write the authorized biography of Cory Wells, singer of the 70s rock band Three Dog Night. Brent’s mother is hypnotherapist & UFO researcher Yvonne Smith. His upbringing informed his explorations into esoterica, psychonautics & American mythos. His work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Hobart Pulp, MUFON Journal & Reality Sandwich. He received his MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics under the tutelage of Penny Arcade, DJ Spooky, Lydia Lunch, Thurston Moore, Daniel Pinchbeck & Anne Waldman. He resides in his native Los Angeles.

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