“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.
Dance: Burial : Dreamfear / Boy Sent From Above
William Bevan, the man behind Burial, is a recluse who never performs and doesn’t release as much as you would like. This EP – two long tracks – is a wonderful sign of life: Burial at its darkest and most chaotic. He shoots strobe acid over gritty, hard breakbeats and creepy samples, and pulls it all into his pitch-black rave. (Peter van der Ploeg)
Rock: Slift: Lion
The French Slift took the throne of artist in residence at Roadburn last year as a bit of an unknown. But they left as an acclaimed new star in the psychedelic stoner rock firmament. New album Ilion underlines that ambition with verve. Epically grand riffs, heavy as an ocean liner and super melodic at the same time. (PvdP)
Doll: Vera Sola: Peacemaker
What a beautiful cover the new album by Vera Sola has. Shadows and light fighting for attention and together framing Sola itself in the center. The indie folk of the LA-born daughter of actors Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon fits in with this: her beautiful voice in the center, with music that alternates between dark and light in atmosphere. That works especially well when she leans on Calexico-like Americana, such as in ‘Get Wise’. (PvdP)
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