Review: The Last Dinner Party’s Debut Album ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ Is a Triumphant Exploration of Maximalism in Music

Prelude to Ecstasy - The Last Dinner Party
Prelude to Ecstasy - The Last Dinner Party
‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ embodies the raw emotion and musical exploration that London’s The Last Dinner Party seem to strive for in their creative process. With reference-heavy lyrics and wildly whimsical sonic elements, the band proves the artistic merit that lies within their songwriting. 
Stream: ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ – The Last Dinner Party

The Last Dinner Party released their first single, “Nothing Matters,” back in April 2023, and have since grown their fanbase to a massive three and a half million monthly listeners on Spotify. Their debut album, Prelude to Ecstasy, has finally dropped, cementing their status as an indie-pop band with ambitious imagination, melding genres and references of their choosing into a wild and mellifluous collage. Released February 2, 2024 via Island Records, the album takes musical maximalism to an extreme, in both lyrical content and sonic arrangement. The band tackles the relatable experience of what it means to be a human in the modern age, looking back throughout history and literature as creatures of comparison, drawing connections between Julius Caesar, toxic masculinity, Joan of Arc, and The Red Scare.

Prelude to Ecstasy - The Last Dinner Party
Prelude to Ecstasy – The Last Dinner Party

The Last Dinner Party consists of Abigail Morris on vocals, Aurora Nishevci on keys, Emily Roberts on lead guitar and flute, Georgia Davies on bass, and Lizzie Mayland on guitar. The group of five wrote most of the songs on the album in 2022 and began playing as a live band before releasing any music.

The release of “Nothing Matters,” a goth-adjacent artsy love song, caught the attention of the internet, paired with a dark yet whimsical music video which rounded out their already hyper-specific aesthetic. The video includes various shots of the band standing above a grave wearing all black and singing along to the lyrics, an image which has come to serve as their main profile on Spotify and other streaming platforms.

Even when the cold comes crashing through,
I’m putting all my bets on you
I hope they never understand us
I put my heart inside your palms,
my home in your arms, now we know
Nothing matters, nothing matters

The Last Dinner Party © Cal McIntyre
The Last Dinner Party © Cal McIntyre

Their subsequent singles, “Sinner,” “My Lady of Mercy,” “On Your Side,” and “Caesar on a TV Screen” set the tone for the album as a whole, illuminating their gothic take on rock and pop, reminiscent of other reference-heavy artists like Florence + The Machine.

“Caesar on a TV Screen” confirmed the feminist themes the band had hinted at in their earlier singles, that reappear throughout the album as a whole. They simultaneously covet and parody the traits that encapsulate toxic masculinity, in a way similar to songs like “The Man,” by Taylor Swift. Except, they come at the topic from a fresh perspective, imagining themselves in the shoes of great, egotistical, male leaders of history, like Julius Caesar.

I know that I can
See myself as a man
When I put on that suit
I don’t have to stay mute
I can talk all the time
‘Cause my shoulders are wide

The Last Dinner Party © Cal McIntyre
The Last Dinner Party © Cal McIntyre

A personal favorite from the album is “Beautiful Boy,” a mellower track about the envy felt by women looking at men who can skate through life on good looks alone. Beautiful women might be privileged, but their beauty comes with certain dangers and a kind powerlessness that men rarely experience.

The best a boy can ever be is pretty
He launches ships on which he sails to safety
And what I’m feeling isn’t lust, it’s envy
He has the Earth, makes love to her to spite me

It can be aggravating to watch men do things that would be inherently unsafe for women, like travel the world alone and carefree. Morris also makes a poignant observation about the imbalance of male and female power in the second stanza, when she asks,

What good are red lips
when you’re faced with something sharp?

Women are constantly being told by pop culture that a unique power lies within our femininity.

Think of all the “femme fatale”-types portrayed in movies where an attractive woman seduces a man as part of a secret scheme or uses her good looks to get revenge on a man who wronged her. We like to think that our feminine beauty gives us control, but the unfortunate reality is that none of those qualities can defend against violence, which is the point Morris is trying to make. I also appreciate the flute that plays over the intro of the song, giving it an extra ounce of eeriness.

The Last Dinner Party © Leonn Ward
The Last Dinner Party © Leonn Ward

Sonically speaking, the band’s sense of chordal harmony and progression is impressive, to say the least. If they ever find themselves in the diatonic major or natural minor scale, they don’t stay there for long. They effortlessly glide from one mode or key into another, with chromatic movement surprising the listener without ever feeling too jolting. This is a rare quality for a young band to develop so early into their process of writing songs together and shows the effort and experimentation that must go into their collaboration.

They are also bold in their choice of instruments throughout the album, utilizing orchestral instruments across the entirety of the record. Their bold experimentation is also exemplified in songs like, “Gjuha,” sung by Nishevci with lyrics in Albanian, and “Prelude to Ecstasy,” the title track, which serves as an instrumental intro to the album.

E hupa gjuhën
Kurrë se mësova
I lost my tongue
I never learned
The Last Dinner Party © Cal McIntyre
The Last Dinner Party © Cal McIntyre

The Last Dinner Party can be witnessed coming to terms with their humanity in this album,

looking back through history and literature with a gut-wrenching understanding of its repetitiveness and repercussions, especially as seen through a female lens. They clearly embarked on a challenging mission in the creation of this record, and rose to their own high standards by expertly writing and recording a collection of songs that are swirling in maximalism, imagination, and sincerity.

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:: stream/purchase Prelude to Ecstasy here ::
:: connect with The Last Dinner Party here ::

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Prelude to Ecstasy - The Last Dinner Party

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? © Tom Marshak

Prelude to Ecstasy

an album by The Last Dinner Party

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