"Prelude to Ecstasy," The Last Dinner Party

"Prelude to Ecstasy," The Last Dinner Party ()

As the triumphant sounds of an orchestra light up the first 1:37 of The Last Dinner Party’s debut LP, “Prelude To Ecstasy,” with its title track, any listener would be forgiven if they wondered whether this was the beginning of the latest John Williams score or a proper introduction to one of the hippest indie bands in popular music today. It’s a small move, announcing themselves with such pomp and circumstance, but it proves to be both smart and accurate as the next 11 tracks unfold.

Why? Because The Last Dinner Party is very good at keeping listeners on their toes all the while playing both sides of the proverbial taste-making coin like a game of Solitaire after dessert. On one hand, it’s the next step in the evolution of twee pop, landing directly in the middle between Belle & Sebastian and the decidedly more interesting Belle & Sebastian offshoot God Help The Girl. On the other, you have influences that range from the tinniest prog tropes to the most glaring homages to the group’s admitted hero, David Bowie.

The result is a sound that is almost impossibly all their own. “Burn Alive,” the first proper song here, is an excellent exercise in ’80s synth gloom as lead singer Abigail Morris sets a somewhat misleading goth tone, her words brooding over electronic drums throughout the verses before the chorus rightly picks up the pace with galloping fervor. It might be the best the album gets if for only how singular it stands next to its brothers and sisters.

Other highlights come when the all-female quintet opt to keep the energy up. “Sinner” is led by a happy piano before it explodes into a Brit-rock chorus that even features the sounds of a choir. “Nothing Matters” is profane in the loveliest of ways as it unfolds on top of a dance groove that would make Ziggy Stardust proud.

None of that is to suggest that things take a qualitative hit once the proceedings slow down. “Beautiful Boy” is pretty and quiet, a nice dour change of pace alongside some of the quicker tunes. From there, “The Feminine Urge” uses the inevitable waltz formula you knew had to come from a band like this in a fairly pedestrian manner while “Mirror” closes everything down and ties it all together with a Mazzy Star-like ballad that showcases orchestral textures alongside Morris’ haunting croon. It’s not the set’s best track, but it’s the perfect way to sum the collection up.

And how is it summed up? Well, for a band who garnered an exorbitant amount of hype for merely releasing a handful of singles scattered throughout 2023, “Prelude to Ecstasy” is one of the better attempts in recent memory to live up to those lofty expectations. Does it always meet them at every twist and turn? No. But does that mean the set doesn’t work? Not at all.

Instead, it means that The Last Dinner Party are off to a very good start with an even more promising future. Here’s hoping they make it to album No. 5 — because with a debut as compelling as this, it’s only fair to hope that more meals are in store and this dinner gathering isn’t the last of its kind after all.

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