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Prelude to Ecstasy Album Review: The Hedonistic Decadence of The Last Dinner Party

Photo available via Wikimedia Commons (Under License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

The Last Dinner Party are a refreshing and unique addition to the alternative music scene, being an all-female entourage who make no attempts to hide their femininity in a male dominated industry. 

Having met as students in London – Abigail Morris (vocals) and Georgia Davis (bass) being King’s own alumni – the group shared a similar interest in London’s music scene, attending regular gigs at South London venue, The Windmill. 

The band formed in 2020, with other members, Lizzie Mayland (vocals, guitar), Emily Roberts (lead guitar) and Aurora Nishevci (keyboard, vocals), desiring to create something as, or even more, vibrant than the bands that they observed.

They consider the image of the band to be just as important as their sound. Morris, in an interview, told NME that they ‘wanted the whole thing to be an entire spectacle.’ They have definitely achieved spectacularity; painting a picture of decadence, romance and dramatics through not only their name, which is biblical and fantastical, but also their shared uniform of regency-style clothes, corsets, long-layered skirts and baroque-esque jewellery. Before their popularity sky-rocketed, they assigned a dress code to each of their gigs, urging fans to join them in their decadent fashion. Some of the themes of the dress-codes included ‘Brothers Grimm,’ ‘Velvet Goldmine’ and ‘O muse!’ Their album art includes this same opulence and indulgence; the band are pictured poised in a luxury frame above a fireplace draped with flowers, antiques, books, jewells and candles. 

Prelude to Ecstasy, their debut album was released on the 2nd February 2024 and shares the same richness as their visuals. Their sound embodies the same hedonism that their images do; it can’t be pinpointed to one genre. Instead, it is multifaceted and can be  described as a mix of indie-rock, orchestral rock, baroque-pop and 1970’s glam-rock. 

It includes twelve songs with lyrics that draw inspiration from the band members personal experiences which are rich in references to English Literature and Greek mythology. 

The album begins with the title track, ’Prelude to Ecstasy,’ an orchestral, lyric-less introduction which the band use for their gigs to make their theatrical entry on-stage. The instrumental includes horns, violins, flutes and the drummer’s hit of the cymbals to build the tension and dramatics.

 This drama is encapsulated throughout the album in songs like ‘Feminine Urge,’ with the gory and vivid imagery of the chorus’ lyric: ‘I am a dark red liver stretched out on the rocks.’ This song is a comment on femininity and women’s resilience in a society that has an endless, unwarranted discourse on their lifestyles, appearance and presentation. 

The streak of feminism remains constant throughout their album, rearing its head in ‘Caesar on a TV Screen,’ which is a song about the desire to command attention and admiration from those around them, like men are able to do in a society that values patriarchy: ‘I can talk all the time because my shoulders are wide.’ 

The album slows down for ‘Ghuja,’ which means ‘tongue’ in Albanian, a song written, sung and played by the keyboardist, Aurora Neschevi, with harmonies from the other band members. It is a raw, heart-felt song about the guilt Neschevi feels for not knowing her mother-tongue as well as she should, and the frustration she feels for being unable to express herself in Albanian as freely as she wishes. 

The emotion continues in the slow, piano ballad ‘On Your Side,’ a song about unconditional love and friendship: ‘if it takes all night, I will be on your side.’ Morris’ voice in this song echoes Kate Bush’s immediately identifiable, soprano vocals. Kate Bush’s inspiration can also be heard in the unique vocals and melodramatic, metaphor-rich lyrics of their most popular song, ‘Nothing Matters,’ an upbeat, indie-rock love-song about having no limitations or shame in passion for another person. This was their first song which was released as a single in April 2023 and catapulted them into unprecedented success, even enabling them to sell out a 3,000 capacity gig at the Roundhouse with only two songs out, months before they had released their album. 

The Last Dinner Party’s debut album, Prelude to Ecstasy, has been a well-deserved success; scoring UK’s number one album and a Brit Award for ‘Rising Star.’ Its recognition and achievement has been well-deserved as their offering to the music scene is undeniably original, multifarious and inspiring. 

Edited by Lucy Blackmur, Music Editor