December 7, 2018 New Wave: Dare To Be Different (Documentary Review)
Every generation wants something they can call their own. They want to stand apart from the past, be remembered for their forward-thinking ideals, and most certainly have their own musical identity. That in mind, back in the 1980s, change was in the air. The younger generation of Americans yearned for something fresh, and early in the decade, few knew much of the Post-Punk movement taking over the European scene. That was until a little radio station broadcasting out of Long Island, New York named WLIR 92.7 FM came along and changed everything.
Considered one of the most intricate parts of bringing the new wave of bands across the Atlantic Ocean to find fame and success in the USA, WLIR 92.7 FM is an easily recognized name by any music junkie. Although, shouldn’t their story be told for the masses to understand more about the 1980s decade that intrigues nearly everyone? Of course! That is where Ellen Goldfarb’s new Documentary film New Wave: Dare To Be Different comes it.
Released on DVD, as well as other digital formats, on Friday, December 7th through MVD Visual, New Wave: Dare To Be Different is not only an essential view for those who want to understand the background and importance of WLIR, but for anyone who fancy themselves a fan of the ‘New Wave’ musical movement of the ’80s which was arguably as powerful as the British Invasion two decades earlier.
First, to give you a point of reference that the filmmaker has a good grasp on the content she is covering, Goldfarb in fact grew up listening to WLIR. She has produced/directed a list of other projects, has studied in New York, and took screenwriting classes through UCLA’s extension program. Applying her first hand experience of what exactly transpired when WLIR changed formats in 1982 to what they called “New Music,” along with her film education, she delivers with flying colors for her debut feature.
Within the 95 minute running time of the Documentary, there is a lot of information covered – from the desire for WLIR to try something new, to their low to no budget trials, to the passion their employees had for the work, to their trend-setting on the air waves. For those who do not know, at the time, WLIR changed their format in 1982, all radio stations were playing the same old Classic Rock tunes from the 10-20 years prior. Instead of following this safe path, WLIR, led by Program Director Denis McNamara, took a risk and decided to give talented, but little known artists airplay in America.
Artists like U2, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Howard Jones, among many others, never saw a lick of exposure in the US during the early ’80s, that is until WLIR stepped in. Keeping in mind this period pre-dated MTV, the station not only gave these artists a platform to be heard domestically, they also sent shock-waves across the music industry and forced other stations to change their ways around the country. WLIR was so dedicated to bringing these new artist across to American audiences, they would purchase the imports directly to spin the records, even before labels released the material here!
Now that you have the overall gist of what WLIR meant to the new music movement of the early 1980s, the question is, how well does New Wave: Dare To Be Different deliver the entire picture of the time? The answer is it does an exceptional job while including fantastic interviews with everyone from Joan Jett to Howard Jones, to Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode/Erasure/Yaz), to Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, to Billy Idol, and Midge Ure, plus so many more. This is very important, because many times Documentaries will cover a subject, but not have nearly as much impressive lineup of exclusive interview footage as New Wave: Dare To Be Different put together to justify the overall story. That in mind, you get thoughts and opinions directly from the artists on just how vital WLIR was to their breaking in the American market.
Beyond all of this, New Wave: Dare To Be Different also does an exceptional job of painting the whole picture of what times were like during the era of WLIR. It gives you the history of what was going on in the world, the desire for social change, and the vibe of what everyone was feeling. This, along with an overall briefing on the artists that defined the musical movement, make the Documentary a complete package.
All these factors in mind, as a fun, well-paced, compelling Documentary, New Wave: Dare To Be Different is a fantastic look at the past that helped influence the future. That is why Cryptic Rock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.