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Judy G.

CD of The Week

Week of 2/05/24

    The Last Dinner Party - Prelude to Ecstasy (Island)

    It’s easy to be skeptical of The Last Dinner Party. The ascendance has been rapid, and the British music press has been rabid for this British quintet, who opened for The Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park just a year after they formed. Also, for every Arctic Monkeys that have become legacy bands with deep catalogues, NME has fawned over a dozen less-deserving artists that failed to stay relevant for more than a few years. However, The Last Dinner Party are really as special as advertised and their unique qualities go way beyond just their neo-Victorian costumes and the notably profane lyrics of their debut single, “Nothing Matters.” Their first album, Prelude to Ecstasy, is a major triumph, bursting with musical complexity and lyrical maturity admirable for any release, let alone a debut recorded so shortly after a band’s genesis.

    Sonically, The Last Dinner Party sit in a middle ground between the dramatic widescreen rock of Florence + The Machine and the off-kilter, atmospheric pop of Kate Bush. Their music also has a lush, baroque quality that may be the result of the classical musical background of some of the band members, particularly multi-instrumentalist Emily Roberts who adds touches of flute to a few songs while also shredding during the guitar solo of “Nothing Matters.” Literary and highbrow references abound in the lyrics with “Caesar on a TV Screen” alluding to the rise and fall of the Roman leader via unpacking contemporary celebrity while “The Feminine Urge” references the myth of Daphne and Apollo as Abigail Morris sings that she “wishes the trees would swallow me / make me a forest / take away my soul.” These lines could come across as histrionic, but Morris has a soulful confidence as a vocalist that keeps melodrama at bay.

    Other album highlights include “Sinner,” which begins with an ear-grabbing staccato keyboard melody before powerful choral harmonies and poignant lyrics about queer identity drive the song’s chorus. Meanwhile, “My Lady of Mercy” has the musical chops and rapid tempo changes of prog but is completely devoid of the pretension and unnecessary length (the song is just 2:55). As their titles suggest, “Burn Alive” and “Portrait of a Dead Girl” veer into goth territory and the spooky imagery (branding, cannibalism) and atmosphere make these songs must-listens for fans of Siouxsie and the Banshees.

    The Last Dinner Party are more than worthy of the intense hype that has surrounded their debut album. Their music possesses a deep emotional core beneath the arty flourishes and lush production from James Ford (Foals, Depeche Mode) and the thematic and sonic ambition of Prelude to Ecstasy is simply remarkable, especially since everything from the Albanian-language ballads to the guitar-driven anthems come naturally. It’s only the beginning of February, but one of the best albums of 2024 has almost certainly dropped.
    Review by Sol

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