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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

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‘Prelude to Ecstasy’: An open invitation to The Last Dinner Party

The music industry has never been kind to women, but it especially despises young women who either cannot live up to particular standards or appear to be “too good.” Everything critical I’ve seen on the internet about The Last Dinner Party (TLDP) has fallen under the latter category. Accusations of being industry plants have swarmed the group since their first appearance in the public eye — and I expect them to all but fade away as they continue their rise to stardom. Fans of the band are aware of these comments, but many don’t care — they’re just that good. 

Abigail Morris (lead vocals), Lizzie Mayland (vocals, guitar, flute) and Georgia Davies (bass, vocals) met in London before starting university in 2020. The trio would frequent gigs at a pub in Brixton called The Windmill which featured artists like Black Midi and HMLTD, inspiring the group to think about starting something of their own. Emily Roberts (lead guitar, mandolin, flute, vocals) and Aurora Nishevci (keyboard, organ, piano, synthesizer, vocals) joined later to round out the group, eventually developing the name “The Last Dinner Party,” which “was inspired by the idea of a huge debauched dinner party where people came together to celebrate with a hedonistic banquet” — a concept which the band succeeds in depicting through their music.

“Prelude to Ecstasy,” released on Feb. 2, is TLDP’s debut LP. While the pop-rock album is only 12 tracks with a run time of just over 41 minutes, each song is a sonic masterpiece chock full of astute extended metaphors for toxic relationships, melodious orchestral pieces and references to history and classical mythology. “Nothing Matters” — the first single — was released in April 2023 with “Sinner,” “My Lady of Mercy,” “On Your Side” and “Caesar on a TV Screen” following over the next several months. 

I began listening to the band when “Nothing Matters” and “Sinner” were the only songs to the band’s name, and I vividly recall my distress at learning this fact. Each new song had me hooked, though the release of five singles had me worried about the cohesion and novelty of the full album upon its release. Luckily, my hesitations were misplaced, as the new tracks and structuring of the LP allowed me to see everything with a fresh perspective, and I’ve continued to fall in love with TLDP’s work. 

Lyrically, they touch on everything from femininity and masculinity (“Caesar on a TV Screen”, “The Feminine Urge”) to losing one’s native tongue (“Gjuha”). They also incorporate a variety of classical and electric instruments to concoct each song with a masterful precision. One of my favorite tracks at the moment is “Burn Alive” (though it changes every day). “Burn Alive” compares a toxic relationship to the sensation of burning and embracing the flames of passion despite the harm it causes — “There is candle wax melting in my veins / So I keep myself standing in your flames / Burn, burn me alive.” There is incisive language about dealing with the complex feelings of this relationship (“Let me make my grief a commodity”) and knowing its injurious nature while also not wanting it to end (“Do what I can to survive”). 

The genius of the songwriting and the incredible accompanying instrumentation are not the only ways in which TLDP is making a name for themselves, as they seem to understand and perfect the dying art of the music video. Are there ultra-complex storylines in these videos? No. Is there incredible cinematography, costuming, aesthetics and an overall appreciation for this mixed media product? Absolutely. The “Caesar on a TV Screen” video is evidence enough.

I truly could sit and write pages upon pages about my excitement for TLDP and how I believe they’re the next big thing. With only one album under their belt, they’ve already won two awards — Rising Star (Brit Awards) and the Sound of 2024 (BBC Sound of … ) — and supported major artists Florence + the Machine and Hozier in recent tours. No matter what is said about the band’s status as “industry plants,” nothing will stop them from continuing to put out great music.