Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye

Musical comebacks that are worth the wait.

Musical reunions have taken centre stage in recent showbiz news, from The Cure to The Stone Roses, with the comeback gigs for the latter selling out in just 14 minutes. Here are other acts who are making an exciting return:

Leonard Cohen

Next year, the 77-year-old Canadian poet, novelist and singer-songwriter will release his first new album since 2004's Dear Heather. It will be called Old Ideas and will consist of ten previously unpublished songs, he told journalists in the town of Oviedo in northern Spain. In Oviedo, Cohen collected Spain's most esteemed prize for non-Spanish writers. Will there be a tour to accompany Old Ideas? Cohen replied: "God willing, I never quite know whether there's going to be a tour or not."

Mazzy Star

Longing romantic lyrics sung serenely by Hope Sandoval and David Roback on guitar, keyboard and piano is Mazzy Star. The dreamy and mysterious Californian group have digitally released Common Burn 15 years since their last single. It is accompanied by the B-side Lay Myself Down and a vinyl release will follow. The alternative rock band was formed in 1989 in Santa Monica and is best-known for the hit Fade Into You.

Garbage

The rock group has announced that their first album since 2005's Bleed Like Me should be released in spring next year. Singer Shirley Manson told Spin.com: "The overriding themes [of the record] are pretty much about being a misfit, a geek, a nerd, a forgotten-about, in a way." Manson, drummer Butch Vig and guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker are working on the album, which is currently untitled. The group was formed in in 1994 in Wisconsin and their debut album, Garbage, was astoundingly successful, as were their singles of the mid-1990s, such as Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains.

Kate Bush

The eccentric singer-songwriter's first album of original material for six years - 50 Words For Snow - will be released on 21 November 2011. Now aged 53, Kate Bush's rise to fame began when her debut single Wuthering Heights made her the first woman to have a UK number one with a self-written song. 50 Words For Snow will feature seven new tracks, an exciting prospect after Bush's album Director's Cut, released on 16 May 2011, divided fans with its new versions of songs originally on The Sensual World (1989) and The Red Shoes (1993).

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys' 50th anniversary will be commemorated by a world tour next year and follows years of legal battles between band members. Al Jardine announced the news to Rolling Stone magazine and said that "We'll do maybe 50 amphitheaters [in the US] and 50 or 60 overseas." There are archival releases on the way, including the Smile Sessions, which will come out on 1 November. However, only Jardine, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston are regrouping; Brian Wilson said that he would not in a solo interview with Q Magazine. Back in May, Wilson said that he was considering rejoining the group.

Splits and a departure

It's not all glorious reunions though...

Bloc Party

The band responsible for the stunning debut album Silent Alarm has not split, but its lead singer and rhythm guitarist Kele Okereke has left, according to NME. In September, the band confirmed that they would audition new singers and claimed that they were on good terms with Kele. Losing Kele's distinctive vocals would undoubtedly be a great loss to the band. Kele's band membership seemed unsure after his release of the electronic solo album The Boxer last year. Publicly, this did not appear to be seen as a betrayal by the rest of the band, given that the record was advertised on Bloc Party's official website. Currently, this website states that "Bloc Party is still Bloc Party- See you soon" and features a picture of The Simpson's version of the band, including Kele.

Sonic Youth

Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's separation after 27 years of marriage has cast doubt on Sonic Youth's future, according to their record label's parent company. The rock group will still carry out their their South American tour in November. "Plans beyond that tour are uncertain. The couple has requested respect for their personal privacy and does not wish to issue further comment" said Catherine Herrick, a spokeswoman for Beggars Group, the owner of the band's Matador label. The band has made albums roughly every 2 to 3 years since their heyday in the late-1980s and early 1990s, the most recent of which is The Eternal, 2009.

Westlife

Kian, Mark, Nicky and Shane have finally done it. In a statement, the Irish pop group announced that their split was "wholeheartedly a united decision."

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The End We Start From imagines London underwater

Megan Hunter's fictional apocalypse is a tender one. 

It is six months after the flood. The nameless narrator of The End We Start From is a new mother and a refugee, and by the midpoint of the novel we have followed her and her baby from the “Gulp Zone”, where their London flat was swallowed, to a safe house that proved to be not safe enough, and then refugee camps, every move stripping life a little closer to the essentials. First what can be fitted in a car as you flee to safety, then what can be carried in your arms; first porridge, then only gruel.

Halfway through, the narrator and her baby make it to an island under the guidance of another new mother she befriended in the camps. Here, a family has established a small life of plenty. The narrator has left behind a “place of not-enough”, but here there is food to spare. Seeds grow into vegetables. The baby “likes to eat butter in chunks”. But where has the butter come from? There’s no mention of cattle on the island, no bucolic descriptions of churning. We’re told there is no electricity. So how do they have butter and why is it not rancid?

It’s a small thing, but an outsize irritant in a book whose prose is pared back to match the minimal existence it describes. Every detail feels weighted with significance because it was chosen over something else. Megan Hunter is a poet (this is her first novel), and her poetic instincts are underlined by the TS Eliot-referencing title, borrowed from Four Quartets: “What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from.”

Apocalypse and rebirth are central to Hunter’s story. Butter aside, it invokes a thoroughly plausible end of the world. Like Emily St John Mandel’s luminous Station Eleven, or Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, you read it with the conviction that this is what it would be like. (These stories are told from the perspective of the resourceful fortunates who make it through. Apocalypse literature kindly dodges the reality that, if it came to it, most of us would die whimpering in a dirt hole.)

But realism is not the only dictate here. The End We Start From is also deeply invested with symbolism. It begins with the narrator going into labour: “Finally I am waterless, the pool of myself spreading slowly past my toes.” Maternity is a kind of apocalypse, an end to being one kind of self who lives one kind of life, and the beginning of another. Names, like everything else here, are cut back to the barest essentials, becoming just initials. The narrator’s husband is R, her in-laws are N and G, and her baby Z – an alphabetical end who is at the beginning of his life. Anyone who has welcomed the catastrophe of a newborn into their lives is likely to feel sympathy for this parallelbetween infant and Armageddon.

There is a cost to the allegory, though, and it comes through in moments when Hunter sacrifices the merciless logic of calculating survival in favour of giving play to her metaphor. Milk is, as it would be for a new mother, a theme. The milk in the narrator’s breasts that keeps her baby alive becomes an analogue for all sustenance: “As for food, I have started to think of it all as milk,” she says. “I wonder how long we would survive, how quickly human milk runs out in famine.” Perhaps it’s inevitable, then, that the unexpected gift of security and nourishment the narrator and Z find on the island should be represented through dairy; but it also punctures a world you could otherwise believe in utterly.

Hunter’s apocalypse is a tender one. There is violence and disorder at the start: one of the most affecting uses of Hunter’s spare style is when the narrator’s mother-in-law fails to return from a brutal trip to gather provisions, and the narrator simply announces: “No G.” But while R chooses isolation and suspicion of others, leaving his wife and child to make his own way, the narrator chooses humanity. She tells us how she “falls in love”, deep and quick, with those with whom she forms alliances. To borrow again from Four Quartets, “The houses are all gone under the sea” – but The End We Start From promises the possibility of life afterwards. 

The End We Start From
Megan Hunter
Picador, 127pp, £9.99

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear