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 It will be called Old Ideas and will consist of ten previously unpublished songs, he told journalists in the town of Oviedo in northern Spain.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."

Davide Restivo at Wikimedia Commons
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Scientists have finally said it: alcohol causes cancer

Enough of "linked" and "attributable": a new paper concludes that alcohol directly causes seven types of cancer.

I don't blame you if you switch off completely at the words "causes cancer". If you pay attention to certain publications, everything from sunbeds, to fish, to not getting enough sun, can all cause cancer. But this time, it's worth listening.

The journal Addiction has published a paper that makes a simple, yet startling, claim: 

"Evidence can support the judgement that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx [part of the throat], larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and [female] breast"

So what's especially significant about this? 

First, scientists, unlike journalists, are very wary of the word "causes". It's hard to ever prove that one action directly led to another, rather than that both happened to occur within the same scenario. And yet Jennie Connor, author of the paper and professor in the Preventive and Social Medicine department at the University of Otago, New Zealand, has taken the leap.

Second, alcohol not only causes cancer of one kind – the evidence supports the claim that it causes cancer at seven different sites in our bodies. There was weaker evidence that it may also cause skin, prostate and pancreatic cancer, while the link between mouth cancers and alcohol consumption was the strongest. 

What did we know about alcohol and cancer before?

Many, many studies have "linked" cancer to alcohol, or argued that some cases may be "attributable" to alcohol consumption. 

This paper loooks back over a decade's worth of research into alcohol and cancer, and Connor concludes that all this evidence, taken together, proves that alcohol "increases the incidence of [cancer] in the population".

However, as Connor notes in her paper, "alcohol’s causal role is perceived to be more complex than tobacco's", partly because we still don't know exactly how alcohol causes cancer at these sites. Yet she argues that the evidence alone is enough to prove the cause, even if we don't know exactly how the "biologial mechanisms" work. 

Does this mean that drinking = cancer, then?

No. A causal link doesn't mean one thing always leads to the other. Also, cancer in these seven sites was shown to have what's called a "dose-response" relationship, which means the more you drink, the more you increase your chances of cancer.

On the bright side, scientists have also found that if you stop drinking altogether, you can reduce your chances back down again.

Are moderate drinkers off the hook?

Nope. Rather devastatingly, Connor notes that moderate drinkers bear a "considerable" portion of the cancer risk, and that targeting only heavy drinkers with alcohol risk reduction campaigns would have "limited" impact. 

What does this mean for public health? 

This is the tricky bit. In the paper, Connor points out that, given what we know about lung cancer and tobacco, the general advice is simply not to smoke. Now, a strong link proven over years of research may suggest the same about drinking, an activity society views as a bit risky but generally harmless.

Yet in 2012, it's estimated that alcohol-attributable cancers killed half a million people, which made up 5.8 per cent of cancer deaths worldwide. As we better understand the links between the two, it's possible that this proportion may turn out to be a lot higher. 

As she was doing the research, Connor commented:

"We've grown up with thinking cancer is very mysterious, we don't know what causes it and it's frightening, so to think that something as ordinary as drinking is associated with cancer I think is quite difficult."

What do we do now?

Drink less. The one semi-silver lining in the study is that the quantity of alcohol you consume has a real bearing on your risk of developing these cancers. 

On a wider scale, it looks like we need to recalibrate society's perspective on drinking. Drug campaigners have long pointed out that alcohol, while legal, is one of the most toxic and harmful drugs available  an argument that this study will bolster.

In January, England's chief medical officer Sally Davies introduced some of the strictest guidelines on alcohol consumption in the world, and later shocked a parliamentary hearing by saying that drinking could cause breast cancer.

"I would like people to take their choice knowing the issues," she told the hearing, "And do as I do when I reach for my glass of wine and think... do I want to raise my risk of breast cancer?"

Now, it's beginning to look like she was ahead of the curve. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.