Extravagance, melodrama, and ambition – The Last Dinner Party deliver on the hype with their formidably polished debut album ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’. When they broke out with their quivering indie-pop mission statement ‘Nothing Matters’, The Last Dinner Party were already performing with striking conviction, style, and substance for a band literally releasing their first song. Their commitment to the glamour, costume, and theatrics was way beyond what would be needed or expected from a band cutting their teeth, but as they prove on ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’, dressing up to the nines and giving it everything seems to be The Last Dinner Party’s raison d’etre.
What’s the opposite of lacklustre? Is there a word for that, or is it just ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’? Because across the whole record, the most tangible, excellent quality is the sense that the band are doing the most. From the gorgeous, immersive overture that opens the record with motifs from the album’s most memorable moments arranged in crescendoing orchestral – seriously, the notes of ‘Nothing Matters’s chorus enshrined in strings and cymbals followed by an immense flourish of harp… It goes on – The Last Dinner Party draw up the red velvet curtain on ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ with serious panache before tumbling headfirst into the expansive dark-pop of ‘Burn Alive’.
The Last Dinner Party are unabashedly going for highbrow, greedily scattering literary references, historical characters, theoretical influences, poetic techniques and classical instrumentation across ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’. It’s not a million miles away from the sort of feverish, prodigal talent that 17 year old Ryan Ross used to write ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’, and he shares TLDP’s penchant for baroque-pop. The Last Dinner Party are comprised of five Ryan Rosses, each drawing on a rich background to channel into their first artistic opus: between them, the band boast educations in classical music and literature (as well as the non-academic sort of musical education you can only get by spending every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and most weekdays too watching your favourite bands play in clubs, which evidently teaches you how to put on a really good live show.) There’s never a moment, even on the album’s poppiest offerings, where TLDP ask themselves ‘should we keep it simple, or add something extra?’ and select the former.
However, even amongst the sonic and visual dressing up, which ranges from renaissance to cabaret to Victorian Gothic, The Last Dinner Party are still accessibly, tangibly, contemporary and tap into the Gen-Z psyche. ‘The Feminine Urge’ takes its title from a meme used to describe actions that signpost a distinctive girlhood, and its lyrics take what is ostensibly silly little tweet format and turn it into a body-horror drama groaning under the pressures of said girlhood. ‘Beautiful Boy’, a piano lament a couple of tracks forward from ‘The Feminine Urge’ is a sort of antithesis, now referencing more body horror (‘The Green Ribbon’, a favourite of feminist storytellers) but spinning a yarn about gender envy and masculinity.
‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ does a lot, and goes to a lot of places, both thematically and musically. It goes to too many places to conceivably be called a concept album, even though it sort of looks like one and sort of sounds like one, with all its decadence and theatricality. But the concept at its core, maybe, is just The Last Dinner Party, building their identity with every emotional and musical block they can find and make fit – it’s a delightful, towering debut that will indeed leave you ecstatic.
Words: Ims Taylor