NEW WAVE: DARE TO BE DIFFERENT is Like Unearthing a Time Capsule
Featuring Denis McNamara, Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Thomas Dolby, Midge Ure, members of Talking Heads, Blondie, Duran Duran, etc. Directed by Ellen Goldfarb. (2017/95 min).
As someone who was more of a metalhead back in high school, new wave was not really on my radar. It was still a relatively underground genre and few people in my neck of the woods knew who the hell U2 or Duran Duran were (though I briefly dated a girl who loved The B-52s, an infatuation completely lost on me at the time).
But in a place far more hip than Portland, Oregon, new wave began to make waves in America courtesy of WLIR, a tiny New York radio station that carved a cultural niche by playing music no one else dared to (which also included punk and reggae). Despite having a fraction of the financial resources as corporate-owned stations, WLIR made its reputation through creative programming, colorful DJs and keeping its finger on the pulse of the contemporary club scene, as well as an awareness of young new artists making a different brand of noise than classic rockers.
Dare to Be Different is an affectionate documentary about WLIR and how a format change in 1982 turned it into a influential force. In the process, the station championed now-legendary 80s artists long before MTV made them household names. Featuring interviews with former staff members, programmers, DJs and a virtual who's-who of 80s musical icons, the film is a fascinating chronicle of the station's rise and untimely demise, while effectively encapsulating an entire subculture (musically and aesthetically).
During the interviews, it soon becomes obvious that most of the subjects truly miss those days. I imagine that many of those who grew up listening to the station (and these artists) probably do, as well, making this movie a bittersweet time capsule of a bygone era. Though never a big fan of the so-called new wave, I still found Dare to Be Different to be a fun piece of 80s nostalgia and the story of WLIR is a fascinating one.