Music Reviews
Prelude to Ecstasy

The Last Dinner Party Prelude to Ecstasy

(Island) Rating - 8/10

It’s hard to live up to the hype. When you’re labeled as the next big thing, it can easily become a set-up for unrealistic expectations. In the case of The Last Dinner Party though, they’re more than up to the challenge. The five-piece not only brings a near-bulletproof collection of tunes on Prelude to Ecstasy, but they do so by arriving in a theatrical storm that’s fully their own. This is Kate Bush meets Aladdin Sane meets a West End romp. The music is cinematic in a widescreen sense, but with an earthy core, making this band a breath of fresh air.

The Last Dinner Party’s personality is on display from the very first song. The title track is the equivalent of an orchestra warming up, a scene-setting score that would be right at home in an old epic like Cleopatra or Lawrence of Arabia. Gjuha is just as effective with gently plucked acoustic guitar over cathedral hymns. Even the group’s more “traditional” songs are filled with captivating curve balls. Abigail Morris’ roller-coaster vocals on The Feminine Urge help make that song a great and wild ride, moving from low-key verses to a chorus that rises, falls, coaxes, and shouts. Caesar on a TV Screen is a similar achievement, melding a smoldering waltz with a horn-laden chorus ready to take on the world.

Part of what makes so many of these airy, free-flowing moments excel is the band’s willingness to dive into dark underbellies. Burn Alive feels like its title, a gradual scorcher that catches your attention from the opening sharp guitar riff. But it’s the blooming chorus that really connects, its lyrics focused on the consuming trap of a toxic relationship. “There is candle wax melting in my veins/So I keep myself standing in your flames,” Morris sings. On Your Side slows things down with a beautiful piano melody for this fragile tale of heartbreak, filled with hard-hitting lines like, “And you smiled so sweetly as you threw me/Down the rocks into the seaweed/You thought that I could fly.” Portrait of a Dead Girl captures you with melancholy strings, then flourishes in its second half. Over Emily Roberts’ bending guitar solo, an ensemble repeats, “Give me the strength,” flipping the potential victimhood of the title into a call for the power to put a stop to it.

Then we have the stunning anthems that will be played and loved for years to come. Sinner is full-on glam rock where lust and religion press up against each other over a slick guitar riff and choral chants. My Lady of Mercy runs with the same metaphor but ups the playfulness and rockets with an earth-shaking chorus of angelic choirs and explosive, percussive instrumentation. The best of these is Nothing Matters—a baroque masterpiece that sounds like a dark mirror of Florence and the Machine. Screaming out “And I will fuck you like nothing matters” brings across the right mix of catchy and compelling, partially due to the sour undercurrents running through it. This is the type of song that’s expressed as a need, not a want.

To quote Lorde, Prelude to Ecstasy is the sound of “All the glamour and the trauma/And the fuckin' melodrama.” It’s heaven and hell smashed up against each other—a mix of grit and grace, blood and beauty, danger, and desire. Those living contradictions, filtered through their strong musical identity into a collection of dynamite songs, make this one of the best debuts of the year. Time to believe the hype.



We discussed this record and more in our February 2024 New Music Round-Up. Listen here and please consider subscribing to support the website.