The Last Dinner Party: Prelude to Ecstasy – Offbeat and accomplished, this is a killer debut album

The London band burst on the scene trailing accusations of being manufactured, but these well-crafted, thoughtful songs will quieten the naysayers

The Last Dinner Party
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Artist: Prelude to Ecstasy
Genre: Pop
Label: Island

It could have been a very different outcome. When you have a debut single that bulldozes through the music scene in the way that Nothing Matters did last year, it’s usually only downhill from there. Indeed, the enormous early success of The Last Dinner Party soon led to accusations of the London band being either nepo babies who were fast-tracked to the top or manufactured industry plants – charges not subdued by their top placing on the BBC’s Sound of 2024 poll and a Brit Award as rising stars. Really, there is only one way to quieten the naysayers: make a killer debut album.

Prelude to Ecstasy is just that: a pop album that swerves and swoops into unexpected places but with plenty of hidden depths to discover with every listen. The band, led by Abigail Morris, take a forward-thinking approach to songwriting yet are similarly unafraid to dip into nostalgia for a brief wallow. Opening the record with a classical overture, borrowing from 1980s acts such as Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and plundering a hearty baroque influence throughout, this is a delightfully offbeat and incredibly accomplished collection, steered by the steady hand of James Ford, its producer.

More to the point, these are simply great songs. Morris, her versatile voice laden with both charisma and firepower, sells her lyric sheet with a convincing side of melodrama, as heard on Burn Alive (“I break off my rib to make another you”) and Portrait (“I’d die for you, no questions asked/ If anyone could kill me, it probably would be you”), songs that sound as if they were plucked from the soundtrack of the 1980s cult horror film The Lost Boys. If Florence Welch is too screechy for your taste, the slightly more understated Feminine Urge ticks a similar box without the vocal histrionics. Sinner and Caesar on a TV Screen do a line in barbed, tongue-in-cheek indiepop; My Lady of Mercy deftly switches between a Sparks-like surrealist pop verse and a beefy stadium-rock chorus, while the sultry Portrait shows that the band are not afraid to pull out the big guns when required, building to a powerful, string-drenched climax.

Is there an element of shtick to it all? Undoubtedly: this is a band that thrives on image, as their stylised music videos and extravagant stagewear have shown. Yet beneath the facade is also thoughtful, well-crafted songwriting that instils a confidence that we’ll be hearing more of The Last Dinner Party in years to come. And if not? Well, they’ve made that killer debut album, regardless.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times