When The Last Dinner Party emerged in April 2023 with debut single ‘Nothing Matters’, it elicited the kind of rapturous response that left all reasonably minded people in no doubt that they were witnessing the start of something special.
The song itself provided a powerful blast of 80s art-rock and baroque pop, while in lead singer Abigail Morris — a commanding and bewitching presence at the band’s fore — it felt like a star had been born.
But one great song, of course, does not a great band make, and The Last Dinner Party’s follow-ups throughout 2023 provided us with enough satisfying hints that they were on the path to delivering one of 2024’s first truly great albums. There were shades of new-wave bombast on the soaring ‘Sinner’, while ‘My Lady of Mercy’ might just be the first time that a stoner rock-lite breakdown has featured in a song about Catholic guilt. On the flip side, the delicate and swarming ‘On Your Side’ proved that they were capable of pulling out moments of stadium- primed, hands-in-the-air balladry, too.
All of which is a long way of saying this: believe the hype, because Prelude to Ecstasy sees The Last Dinner Party delivering one of the greatest rock debuts in years. They may have honed their craft in intimate rooms like The Windmill in Brixton, but here’s a record that will surely catapult them into arenas and, whisper it, to the very top of festival bills in years to come.
Aided by the deft hand of Arctic Monkeys producer James Ford, it’s an album that proves exciting, unpredictable and gripping at every turn. An opening orchestral blast amps up the drama from the very start, before ‘Burn Alive’ — a frequent opener at their incredible live shows — sees the group showing they’re already experts at crafting intricate guitar anthems that grab your attention from the first note and refuse to let go.
But it is a record of exceptional depth and variety too. The aforementioned early singles provide great power on the album, but Morris recently told Rolling Stone UK that the debut sees the group “in our platonic form rather than a Ziggy Stardust-type of character. It’s us at our full capacity.”
This sense of sonic boldness manifests itself most clearly on the swirling, Kate Bush-esque strains of ‘The Feminine Urge’, an intricate examination of female rage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a curious flute-led beat is employed on ‘Beautiful Boy’, a slow jam about the societal privileges of being a handsome man.
It’s all testament to the clarity of the bold and brave vision that The Last Dinner Party have laid out from the start of their career. A few snide detractors may have baulked at the idea that a band was able to be so seemingly fully formed at such an early juncture, but this is an album that should silence them once and for all.
These winners of Rolling Stone UK’s first ever Rising Star Award have created a record that doesn’t so much deliver on the hype as it smashes through the notion entirely. Come December, you’d be a fool to bet against this becoming a defining album of the year.