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 It will be called Old Ideas and will consist of ten previously unpublished songs, he told journalists in the town of Oviedo in northern Spain.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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Against the Law: Peter Wildeblood must be one of the bravest men who ever lived

BBC2's historical gay rights film evokes bewilderment, fear and agonising pain.

My head told me that Against the Law (26 July, 9pm), the BBC’s film about Peter Wildeblood, the only openly gay man to give evidence to Lord Wolfenden’s committee, wasn’t up to much. Wildeblood was one of the three men who in 1954 were convicted of buggery in the notorious Montagu case (the others being Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers) – a trial that led, thanks to unease about the verdict, to the inquiry that resulted in the Wolfenden report, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain.

The film is based on the book Wildeblood published (he was a journalist) after his release from Wormwood Scrubs. Its script, by Brian Fillis, was underpowered and off-puttingly didactic, and I couldn’t understand, at first, the decision to keep interrupting the drama with the spoken-to-camera recollections of a series of elderly gay men. But at some point my heart, which was aching, told my head to shut up. This is… good enough, I thought, watching the film’s last few moments, in which the 89-year-old Roger and the 77-year-old Percy tenderly kissed for the camera. I was mad for Roger. Did he remember Wolfenden? My dear, how could he ever forget it? At the time, he was having an affair with Lord Wolfenden’s son, Jeremy, which certainly added piquancy to the newspaper reports as he read them over breakfast.

If I’d been casting this piece, I might have gone for a floppy-haired Matthew Goode type for Wildeblood, the former public school boy – but that would have been my mistake. It’s hard to imagine a finer performance than the one given by Daniel Mays, an actor who is not even remotely floppy haired.

Here was all of the wit and compassion you find in Wildeblood’s prose, combined with emotions I’d hitherto only been able rather half-heartedly to imagine: bewilderment, fear, agonising pain. As Wildeblood watched his former lover, an RAF corporal called Edward McNally, turn Queen’s evidence during his trial, May’s face grew slack with disbelief. He looked, to me, as if some unknown hand was quietly disembowelling him. By which had he been most betrayed? Love, or the law of the land?

Everyone knows what followed, but it was horrible to see nevertheless. Mailbags were sewn; aversion therapy was discussed (the prison shrink, played with viper-like precision by Mark Gatiss, told Wildeblood he could either receive a series of electric shocks or a drug that would make him vomit for two days). I thought, not for the first time, that Wildeblood must have been one of the bravest men who ever lived – though it’s not as if he wanted for company: the director’s talking heads, silver of hair and soft of jowl, reminded us of this at every turn, and I was glad of the human punctuation they provided. For most of us, this stuff is history. For them, it had been life.

Some people are devoted to newts, and others to hobbits; a few enjoy recreating the battles of the Civil War. The film My Friend Jane (17 July, 7pm) got down and not very dirty with the Austen super-fans, by which I mean not those who have read Sanditon and The Watsons but types who like to dress in full Regency garb and dance to the sound of a spinet come Saturday night. Actually, it’s scarier than this. A former doctor, Joana Starnes, breathlessly described her new career as a writer of “top-tier JAF”. Translated, this means highly superior Jane Austen fan fiction. She’s produced seven JAF novels, which sounds like a lot until you discover that 60 come out every month.

Zack Pinsent, meanwhile, who is 22, makes his living as a period tailor in Hove, where he likes to promenade in fall-front trousers – a flap enables the gentleman thereby to pee – and top hat. I wanted to laugh at him, and all the other empire-line eccentrics in this odd little documentary. But there was something touching about their obsession; at least they didn’t attempt to intellectualise it, unlike those literary fan girls who have lately taken to writing entire books about why their lives would be meaningless without this or that great writer for company. 

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 27 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Summer double issue