The Last Dinner Party – Prelude to Ecstasy

The Last Dinner Party bring the best musical and literary influences to a feast for the end of the world, resulting in a renaissance album that leaves us wanting more

Album Review by Ellie Robertson | 29 Jan 2024
  • The Last Dinner Party – Prelude to Ecstasy
Album title: Prelude to Ecstasy
Artist: The Last Dinner Party
Label: Island Records
Release date: 2 Feb

Prelude to Ecstasy is the score of a pre-apocalyptic banquet, and each track is a course served on a silver platter. The Last Dinner Party's live shows have become legendary for their lavish choreography and costuming, but it’s the five-piece’s lyrical and compositional thesis – taking the ennui of everyday life, and elevating it to Dionysian heights – that have earned them the distinction of BBC Radio 1’s Sound of 2024.

The abundant breaks, instrumentals, excessive outros and changes in tempo might remind you of Hunky Dory, but the literary themes pick up where Blackstar left off – songs for the end. Nothing Matters is nihilistic, Gjuha is a ghostly chorus. Burn Alive is rendered with references to Joan of Arc, and the backing has something of Siouxsie Sioux about it. An excess of musical mentors are seated at the table – The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins has compared My Lady of Mercy to Led Zeppelin.

Abigail Morris’s ode to ego in Caesar on a TV Screen is set against a backdrop of doomed people and places, 'And I’m falling like the leaves on Leningrad'. This four-and-a-half-minute-long adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy touches on gender, a theme that furnishes the album more and more as it revolves. In Beautiful Boy, Morris sings 'The power of my hips is useless in the dark / What good are red lips when you're faced with something sharp?' It’s a dialogue with Emily Roberts’ flute – giving this couplet the classic accompaniment it deserves.

Each intertextual anthem is set to a barrage of drums, or electric guitar, sometimes mandolin. The band are more than mere followers of the retro, they are voracious readers, and all the art and history and culture they consume appears on the playback. The Feminine Urge metaphorises and mythologises its subject; 'I am a dark red liver stretched out on the rocks / All the poison I convert it and I turn into love'.

Whether you call it glam, goth, or grotesque, these writers are resurrecting a long lost art in popular music – using big sounds, with indulgent lyrics, crafting a listening experience so rich it borders on hedonism. Some records are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and few to be chewed and digested. We’re still digesting Prelude to Ecstasy. We hope this isn’t The Last Dinner Party’s final meal.

Listen to: The Feminine Urge, On Your Side, Beautiful Boy