“Prelude to Ecstasy” is a shallow spectacle

The Last Dinner Party releases highly anticipated debut album Prelude to Ecstasy with cover art that symbolizes the dramatic tone of the tracks.
The Last Dinner Party releases highly anticipated debut album “Prelude to Ecstasy” with cover art that symbolizes the dramatic tone of the tracks.
Courtesy of Island Records

From the titular opening track of “Prelude to Ecstacy,” it’s clear that The Last Dinner Party is trying to put on a show. A review from The Guardian puts it best: the orchestral overture is “so grandiose, even the director of a 1950s Hollywood blockbuster would have suggested his soundtrack composer dial it down a bit.” These lofty heights continue throughout the rest of the album, which delivers on the drama and polish, but unfortunately lacks the grit and soul demanded of a rock record.

“Prelude to Ecstacy” is the highly anticipated debut album from The Last Dinner Party, an all-female indie rock group hailing from south London. You may know them from their TikTok-famous single “Nothing Matters”—which I would argue is still their best song—but many actually found out about the group the old-fashioned way. Before releasing any of their music online, the band played live in small venues, eventually sealing a record deal with Island Records, and only then dropping their debut single. They’ve since opened for Hozier and Florence + The Machine and played the European festival circuit, slowly but surely generating more hype.

Unfortunately, the band’s refreshingly authentic start didn’t produce an equally authentic album. Everything about the quintet is curated, from their corset-clad Baroque aesthetic to their album’s overly pop-y and synth-y production. Plus, most of their songs sound the same, or at the very least follow the same formula. As The Guardian stated, there’s grandiose instrumentals—either keys, strings, guitar or all of the above—plus operatic vocals, tempo and tone changes and, of course, melodramatic lyrics. It’s a safe bet that there’s also a drawn-out guitar solo as well. While some of these songs are quite fun despite their unoriginality, others do not mesh their disparate elements together very well and sound “Frankensteined together,” to quote the Evening Standard.

My last point of contention with “Prelude to Ecstacy” are its aforementioned lyrics. Lead vocalist Abigail Morris sings the following on “Caesar on a TV Screen”: “When I was a child / I never felt like a child / I felt like an emperor / With a city to burn.” On “The Feminine Urge,” it’s “I am a dark red liver stretched out on the rocks.” These comparisons are dramatic, for sure, but are they really saying anything of substance? I don’t think I, or anyone else, has really ever felt like an emperor with a city to burn. Besides, there are only so many similes you can use before they begin to lose their punch.

Despite my tepid reaction to the album itself, I still have a lot of respect for The Last Dinner Party. It’s not easy to be an all-female group in a genre dominated by men, nor is it to rise to fame in a landscape laden with industry plants and algorithm-generated successes. I think that if The Last Dinner Party strips away just a few of their many, many layers in their next album, they might just have a future classic on their hands.

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