The Last Dinner Party are a band on a meteoric rise.
Post-pandemic, they cut their teeth gigging around London, where their distinct style and sound earned them a cult following early doors. A major label deal followed, as did the superb debut single ‘Nothing Matters’. The band cut a distinct figure on the live and festival circuits; a non-male five-piece decked out in silk and ball gowns, wielding angular St Vincent-style guitars, keytars and an unshakable sense of theatre.
The band are arty and gothic, romantic and fierce in equal measure; borne out of red wine-stained evening collaborations, The Last Dinner Party draw on influences befitting their style. There are clear elements of glam-era-Bowie, T Rex and stark shades of Lionheart or Never for Ever era Kate Bush, but the group also pull from rock n roll blues, Florence and the Machine, the uncompromising self-assuredness of Billie Eilish and even newer groups like Porridge Radio with emotional, wrought vocals and meaty, melancholic riffs.
As you might expect from a band so invested in classical music and the art of putting on a show, the record begins with a classical overture to set the scene. This is a ‘through the looking glass’ moment for the entire record, and whilst some might find the harmonic and dramatic strings a little twee, there is a lot to be gained in fully buying-in to the premise and immersing yourself in the world TLDP are creating.
‘Prelude’ jumps straight into ‘Burn Alive’, a live favourite and a cut that kicks any preconceived notions of Prelude To Ecstasy being a cookie-cutter indie-pop record into a cocked hat. This cut is pure Kate Bush in the best way: the drums thunder along as frontwoman Abigail Morris’ vocals absolutely soar: it’s over the top and melodramatic to such fantastic effect, with a knowing nod and wink.
Latest single ‘Ceaser on a TV Screen’ is similar in style, jumping between larger than life string-accompaniments to more understated delivery with such ease. The band switch between these parts before combining them for the final passage, again seeing Morris’ hitting glorious vocal heights, professing insecurity and inadequacy.
‘Feminine Urge’ is another highlight of the live set which has been expertly transposed on record. For a band so young and fresh, they are deft of touch with a jangly, Johnny Marr-esque chord here, or an Arctic Monkeys style harmony there. The cut builds to an incendiary finish, before stopping dead and you have to give props to the superb production from James Ford, longtime Monkeys collaborator. Everything is in its right place, and they push their sound and style to the limit, but never stray into bloated songs or worn-out cliché.
TLDP take things down a notch with ‘On Your Side’, a gorgeous ballad of wee-small hour pining, where the longing in the vocals and instrumentation alike leap out of the speakers and worm their way into the listener’s core. It’s a late night driving tune, drenched in melancholy and heart-wrenching sadness.
The standout moment on Prelude to Ecstasy is the forthcoming double play. ‘Gjuha’ is a sensitive, acoustic track with Eastern European roots: borne from keyboardist Aurora Nishevci’s life as a generational immigrant and struggle of not knowing her mother tongue. It builds beautifully with lute and synths to a fantastic crescendo.
There is a second of silence, a singular moment to catch your breath before we launch right into ‘Sinner’, which feels like a real gloves-off moment for TLDP. They’re unshackled and this next act of the record sees them lean into the band’s rock influences.
‘Portrait’ follows in a similar style, with a miraculous outro of a repeated choral refrain. “Give me the strength” is repeated over and over, evoking Beach Boys‘ Pet Sounds at times. The lead single ‘Nothing Matters’ speaks for itself at this point, and despite being out for almost a year, it sounds as fresh as the day it was born. It’s utterly euphoric.
This record is mesmeric, and you get lost in TLDP’s universe. They so easily lead you into this fantastic Kate Bush world of glam and synth with charm and ease: an album which leaves you desperate for more.
That being said, Prelude and the band at large are a victim of their own success to a degree. For the hoards of people who have seen them live, there is not anything here that they haven’t gotten a sense of before, and the five singles released before the album (almost 50% of the material) means the record loses some of the mystique afforded to other releases. There may be little in the way of curveballs or truly experimental moments, but these criticisms are mere nitpicking in the face of a monumental debut effort.
All in all, it is impossible not to fall head over heels for the The Last Dinner Party’s charm and undisputed talent. The Last Dinner Party feel like a band being primed for superstardom, and with a BRIT award under their belts before the album is even released, you can expect The Last Dinner Party to go stratospheric in the coming months.
featured image: Cal McIntyre