Home / Album Reviews / Album Review: The Last Dinner Party “Prelude to Ecstasy”

Album Review: The Last Dinner Party “Prelude to Ecstasy”

You’re invited to a momentous occasion. The Last Dinner Party have invited you as their guest to a musical buffet of grandiose offerings and tasteful style. The buzz-worthy band are proud to announce their highly-anticipated debut album, Prelude To Ecstasy, which will be released on February 2nd via Island Records/Universal Music. Produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys) in London, the record charms with titillating lyricism and boisterous rock-leaning instrumentations, all projected through the flair of a Thespian lens.

Frontward-facing with a strong aesthetic of dark romanticism and Victorian embellishments, The Last Dinner Party entered 2023 in a swoosh of petticoats and brash declarations. If Jane Austen penned the tale of an ostentatious female rock band, this would be it. On their breakout single, “Nothing Matters,” cries of devotion and sexual fantasies color the song in shades that stain and leave an impermeable remembrance. Their unapologetic force of sound and style has caused a collective whiplash amongst industry critics and commoners alike, cementing the group as one of the most exciting newcomers, bristling with promise. 

(Credit: Cal McIntyre)

In the wake of exciting British acts like Wet Leg (the modern pot-stirrers) and Florence + the Machine (a stylized relic), The Last Dinner Party have rewritten the discourse of ultra-hyped breakout bands, those of whom often slay accusations of nepotism and industry-planting. While the frill and frolic of the group may outwardly resemble a clickbait tactic, the substance of what lies beneath the surface certifies the group’s true talent. The London quintet— composed of Abigail Morris (vocals), Aurora Nishevci (keys), Emily Roberts (lead guitar/flute),  Georgia Davies (bass) and Lizzie Mayland (guitar) — burn that sentiment into each listener on their dazzling debut. 

On the long-awaited release of their debut body of work, the band theatrically explore themes of ecstasy, womanhood, and the extremes of human emotion, all through grandiose sonic landscapes. These dramatics help mold the shape of the album, which starts off with the orchestral escalation of “Prelude To Ecstasy,” an introductory overture that facilitates transformative world building and prefaces the cinematic nuances of the following 11 tracks.

On “Burn Alive,” (think: Kate Bush meets MARINA),  the group asserts their unapologetically feministic prowess right from the get-go. Playing with time signatures and alternating styles, this is the first glimpse into the lawless world of The Last Dinner Party. From bombastic revelry to gothic pseudo-pop melodies and jaunty shuffles, anything goes and it is the twists and turns they lead you down that provide the greatest thrill of all. 

Their spirited shows portray a dramatic affair of wailing guitar and the most simplistic, pith of it all: pure, unadulterated fun. Twirling in their own petticoats, the band often set a themed dress code for their shows, with many fans relishing the task of rising to the request and donning their finery for a night. Despite the costumed facade, this is not to distract from the heart of their mission.

Swinging on a pendulum of extremities, the group do not shy away from extremes; in fact, they embrace the totality of emotion worn like a heart on their sleeves. Reflecting on the album’s thematic structure, the band have stated, “This is an archeology of ourselves; you can exhume our collective and individual experiences and influences from within its fabric. We exorcised guitars for their solos, laid bare confessions directly from diary pages, and summoned an orchestra to bring our vision to life.”

Their historically-tied discography pens tales of Shakespearean tenor like Julius Cesar, to gender-bending proclamations of grandeur, and fierce, feminist manifestos. The riveting number “Cesar on a TV Screen” is bold act of reclamation through role reversal, a trope in which they implement to cheekily point at masculine shortcomings. “No one can tell me to stop, I’ll have everything I want” is a poignant line that inherently gives subtle nod to their own career thus far, punctuated more prominently with lead singer Abigail Morris’ impetuous flair. With impassioned vibrato and rousing cinematic arrangements, this is one of their greatest acts. With staggering staccato, the song is broken into acts shadowing the play, and placing just enough room for pause in between to ensure surprises to come.

Unwavering from their theatrical sentiments, Morris fully embraces the part and sings in a register that nears operatic, with her tone holding a cadence that easily jumps from high falsetto to theatrically low vibrato. Her talent does not merely lie in her impressive vocal abilities however; if the band’s live performances and spirited music videos are any indicator, it’s clear Morris is a thespian in a musician’s frilly, Georgian clothing. For a band that revels in the lush femininity of Baroque allure, their dialogue of masculine figures is an interesting statement they curiously explore. 

Prelude to Ecstasy approaches the act of yearning with a dynamic gentleness and ferocity. From male privilege to female desire, tracks like “Feminine Urge” and aforementioned “Cesar” examine these power dynamics. In equal measure, “On Your Side” paints a beautiful portrait of unconventional love, while reminding us that love and jealousy can coexist.

“Beautiful Boy” continues this contemplation with a tender and wistful yearning. “The best a boy can ever be is pretty / He launches ships in which he sails to safety / And what I’m feeling isn’t lust, it’s envy,” Morris sings with an increasing intensity. There are numerous lyrical gems here, like the line, “The power in my hips is useless in the dark / what good are red lips when you are faced with something sharp?” In true TLDP fashion, the track bends from delicate musings sprinkled with piano and flute, to words that cut with the sharpness of Morris’ tongue and growing resentment, before leaving listeners with the simple admission, “I wish I could be a beautiful boy.” 

Transitioning smoothly into lush soundscapes, “Gjuha” casts a hymnal haze in a track that sees keyboardist Aurora Nishveci singing in Albanian. Her entrancing vocals atop spellbinding instrumentation shifts the mood, once again, as an entryway into the band’s next act. 

“Sinner” and “My Lady of Mercy” are the record’s heaviest offerings and scratch that itch for the listener who yearns for more prominent guitar parts. Soaring with a powerful blast of art-rock and baroque pop, the tracks solidify the group’s inherent power and glimpse at the ferocity of their live performances. 

“Sinner” brilliantly plays with tempo and lust-filled Catholic guilt. Utilizing the religious tactic of group chant and repetition, the song roars with a delectable hook and looping indie rock melodies. This exploration of the polarity between religion and sexuality is deepened on the rock-opera album-standout “My Lady of Mercy.” 

Heady cries amplify the track, with lyrics strung along in a poetic ode to word play. Punctuated with a gluttonous sigh that stamps the song with exhilarating satisfaction, the group performs with the knowledge that audiences are on the edge of their seat. The rest of the band comes in full-throttle here, indulging in garage rock anthem amidst their lavish dramatics. Morris, a commanding and enchanting presence at the band’s helm, easily enraptures listeners through each dramatic inflection and cry of her voice, all while her band impress with poised musicianship and a tight kinship that suggests years of playing with one another. 

Their anthemic breakout “Nothing Matters” finds its scene in the last ten minutes of the album. After songs chronicling the extremes and polarization of intense emotion, the whimsical track elicits a satisfying reaction that feels celebratory and freeing. 

On their final bow, album closer “Mirror” provides a compelling opus that simmers with personal admissions and refections of the male gaze. Poignant philosophies are brought into question (“I’m just a mirror and I don’t exist without your gaze”) and swim in the haunting lull of the track’s shoegaze inclinations. In true TLDP fashion, the ballad reaches its crescendo with blistering electric guitar followed by the fade out of an orchestral coda. 

While at just the beginning of what is sure to be an illustrious career, The Last Dinner Party already possess the poise and verve of self-assured, fearless rockstars. While there is the potential for such extravagance to be viewed as camp or cosplay, their Classically-tinged indie rock musings and boisterous confidence successfully cement their creative ambitions as entirely unique and fruitful. In Prelude, The Last Dinner Party deserve a standing ovation for their very first act. 

Prelude To Ecstasy is out everywhere now. Tickets for The Last Dinner Party’s North American tour are on sale now.

The Last Dinner Party Online: Website | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok | Spotify | Apple Music

About Emma Furrier

Boston-based music writer and reviewer. Passionate about rock and roll, vinyl collecting, and any dog I’ve ever met.

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