The Last Dinner Party declares nonchalance dead


“Maximalism, having fun and trying very hard, at all times.” That is the mission of The Last Dinner Party, according to singer Abigail Morris NME. Debut album Prelude to Ecstasy fits completely within those three fundamental principles, from the orchestral overture to the compelling final ballad.

The London quintet built a huge hype last year based on wild live shows, dressed in velvet, satin and Shakespearean dresses. It earned the band the BBC Sound of 2024 award and the Rising Star Brit Award. On February 19 the band will perform at a sold-out Melkweg in Amsterdam, this summer they will play at Down the Rabbit Hole.

After that overture – woodwind and brass, strings, harp, an ominous bell – The Last Dinner Party immediately throws off all the stops. On ‘Burn Alive’, Morris sings in jaunty Florence & The Machine outbursts about candle wax, gasoline and spilled wine while the drums, synths and guitars swell.

Abigail Morris, bassist Georgia Davies, keyboardist Aurora Nishevci and guitarists Emily Roberts and Lizzie Mayland met at the beginning of their college years. Together they attended shows at the legendary Windmill Brixton in South London. There they were inspired to form a band and to do things completely differently: no t-shirts and jeans, no post-punk, no sullen looks or gruff mumbling.

Instead, the band gives its audience a dress code for every show: Greek Myths, The Brothers Grimm, Velvet Goldmine. “Not required, but strongly encouraged.”

No dress code has yet been announced for the show in Melkweg, but many visitors will already be planning an extravagant outfit. The Last Dinner Party is a fancy dress party of the best kind, where all guests get completely carried away by the theme and no one comes dressed in a farmer’s smock. Nonchalance is no longer cool, if you believe the most hyped English band of the moment.

Florence Welch (the one from The Machine), the queen of theatrical indie, is a major influence on the album. But The Last Dinner Party also looks further back, to the flamboyance of Pulp, and even further back to seventies glam rock. There are echoes of Sparks in the rhythmic piano of ‘Sinner’. The lyrics are about love, drink, sex and jealousy, with references to Russia and Catholicism.

Tempo changes, guitar solos, grand gestures: The Last Dinner Party lays it all out nice and thick. That could easily get boring, but producer James Ford (who previously worked with Arctic Monkeys and, yes, Florence & The Machine) opts for a clear, elegant sound in his productions. Prelude to Ecstasy is a splurge, but an excellently dosed one.

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