Review Summary: I LIKE THE MUSIC, BUT
There’s really no good way to start any piece of writing about The Last Dinner Party: you either acknowledge the Discourse and engage with it, acknowledge the Discourse and state that you refuse to engage with it, or do not acknowledge the Discourse and leave a tangible Discourse-shaped hole of awkwardness to anyone reading. Yikes. Here goes nothing (read: something): I do not care about The Last Dinner Party being, not being, or being perceived as industry plants because, frankly, it does not matter. It’s easy to spot the sexist undertones of such contemplations and accusations, and ultimately it is just plain boring Discourse when there’s a whole album of music to discuss - interesting
The Last Dinner Party make interesting
music that is as easy to define as it is hard to classify in the current landscape of interesting music. The British group’s debut Prelude to Ecstasy
is lots of things: it’s indie pop, it’s glam, it’s baroque - moreover, it’s grandiose, expansive, and catchy as hell. Most impressively, however, is that every crevice of the record adopts a theatricality that feels earned and entirely tasteful (rare). The songwriting here is as razor-sharp as the album’s aesthetic vision to the point of chicken-and-egg: the relentlessly infectious choruses of highlights “Burn Alive” and “Nothing Matters” are as relevant to Prelude to Ecstasy
’s success as the orchestral dissonance of “Gjuha” and several dark, transitional climaxes sprinkled throughout. Rather than contemplating hierarchy, what truly matters is that every element enhances the next: there’s a grand intro to set the stage, there’s lovely harmonies to amplify vocal melodies, there’s plentiful orchestral arrangements to add more than a few flairs of drama. Simply put, there’s a whole lot to dig into and get lost in.
However, it should be noted that nothing The Last Dinner Party puts forth here sounds truly original: while all the arrangements may be expansive and intricate at once, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Prelude to Ecstasy
fails to capture anything fresh. At the same time, it’s clear that this album does not aim to break new ground: it fully commits to the aforementioned clear aesthetic vision instead. Part of this vision can be felt through the lyrical topics explored - in essence, each song deals with love from a different perspective. Occasionally, that love is uplifting and somewhat predictable, and sometimes that love is toxic and destructive. Yet, the best and most intriguing contemplations on the world’s least-discussed topic are shaped through the band’s femininity and understanding thereof. The ways cuts like “Beautiful Boy”, “The Feminine Urge” and “Sinner” deal with gender, sexuality and religion are as fresh as they are depressing. Moreover, the relative gloom of many of these songs provides a wonderful contrast and extra dimension to Prelude to Ecstasy
: everything sounds big
, but the theatricality hides something fragile and truly pristine.
With all of that being said, I must admit that Prelude to Ecstasy
isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Sure, it’s a palpably excellent album and hard not to enjoy it while it’s on, but I would never actively seek out music that sounds like this. Perhaps that’s where some value can be found in the Discourse as well as The Last Dinner Party’s distinct sound and style. Firstly, I was made aware of the band by the Discourse, almost functioning as a self-fulfilling prophecy of success. Secondly, the thing that caused me to stick around and dig in was the band’s apparent inability to fit in: they sound and act unlike many of their contemporaries, and seem preoccupied with carefully carving out a unique space in the modern indie scene to inhabit. It’s a fun space, regardless of how you may get there - and I’m glad to be here.