Detach the hype of ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ and enjoy The Last Dinner Party for who they are.


Credit: Island Records

Does the most anticipated indie album of the year live up to the hype? Yes, and only if you want it to.

There is a lot to like about The Last Dinner Party. Their aesthetic is defined. Their artistic voice is engaging. Their ambition is energising. I mean, just look at that album cover. A debut record with artwork that begs to be read into. Their songwriting follows suit, ebbing and flowing on tragedies and romance with a contemporary ease.

All of which has been amplified by the enormous hype surrounding the band and their album. Massive marketing campaigns; a huge tour spanning the UK, Europe and a ton of festival dates; a metric ton of radio airtime. Get in on the moment or forever regret not ‘being there’ 20 years from now. It’s the most anticipated indie record of the year, afterall.

Much of Prelude To Ecstasy reminds me of the albums I grew up with. Not least because James Ford is on production; the mastermind behind AM’s bluesy coolness gives TLDP an equally cool sound here. Drums with punch, bass with heart, vocals with crisp vulnerability, and orchestration held just below the threshold of decadent. For all the scale of their instrumentation, it’s actually a rather tame album in some ways, but I don’t find that an issue when it stops the record from being overtly pretentious.

Not that it isn’t a little bit pretentious. Just as Ford’s prior work captured my teenhood, for a new generation, Prelude could be an outstanding soundtrack to browse Tumblr to. Trust me, it’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And why shouldn’t you wallow a bit in a record that sounds like this? That baroque sonic palette and those outstanding outfits of theirs aren’t there for nothing. Just listen to the aching strain from Morris on the chorus of ‘Portrait of a Dead Girl’, or that Carmen-esque rising melody on ‘The Feminine Urge’. How can you not want to get a bit melodramatic to something like that?

Much as I am biased to anything that blends drums and guitars with a load of orchestration (and instruments from beyond the orchestra, too), the band’s utilisation of it is much more relaxed than some first attempts from other artists. They employ such sounds with a tempered eclecticness, ensuring that the lyrical content always takes precedent. The result is something exaggerated without being overly grand or even remotely pompous. It can sometimes feel like such regalities need to be justified in order to make them worthy of your listening. The work of TLDP proves there’s also an immense joy to be found in fucking off with that attitude.

“Spend too much time trying to assess how you ought to listen to Prelude and you’ll miss the fact that this is a really well thought-out album.”

Spend too much time trying to assess how you ought to listen to Prelude and you’ll miss the fact that this is a really well thought-out album. 41 minutes that breezes by with intrigue and energy. Hooks and riffs across the runtime that wheedle their way under your skin. A second side that has been a joy to dive into on every listen. Vocals that interplay in depth and tenacity with the rich instrumentation behind them. The band know exactly how to write great indie pop with an illustrious air, and if none of these songs are ever used in some cool teen film in the next five years, I’ll be bitterly disappointed.

It’s hard not to address the marketing, however. It’s not their fault – it’s that Island Records know stylistic all-female bands have brought in bank for the last few years. I have no wish to reduce the five piece to decisions made by label execs over Zoom calls, but I also have to acknowledge how omnipresent they’ve been made. At one point earlier in February, I’d just seen an advert for the album on YouTube. I then walked into the kitchen to hear ‘Caesar’ being played on 6 Music, and then into the lounge to see another ad playing on TV. If the people annoyed that at a new female band being successful want to do something helpful, they could redirect the energy they waste calling new artists ‘industry plants’ and criticise the fact that labels make so much fucking money from other peoples work.

The funny thing about some of the negative reactions to their rise is that none of this is actually as deep as it’s being portrayed to be. The band certainly have depth to their writing, but none of it runs on an urgency or desperation to be approved. Prelude, in many ways, is a real take-it-or-leave-it record, and it holds no qualms in what you choose to do with it. TLDP want drama and theatricality over definitive substance, and they’re very good at delivering it. Embrace the romanticism that they offer instead of taking it too seriously, and it makes for wonderful listening.

“In an era when hype is seen as the only to cut through, it’s refreshing to enjoy something new and pop-oriented that’s more than capable of standing on its own two feet.”

Prelude to Ecstasy is an album that you can enjoy as much as you wish. It never quite lands a suckerpunch that leaves you remiss without it, but it’s also happy to settle for just being the cool record that you’ll look back on as a big part of your 2024. TLDP bring a stellar mix of an audio-visual style that you’ll get a lot from participating in, without any requirements that you treat their debut album as the second coming. In an era when hype is seen as the only to cut through, it’s refreshing to enjoy something new and pop-oriented that’s more than capable of standing on its own two feet.

Remember, your opinions don’t have to be defined by marketing campaigns. It’s not easy to disentangle records from their presentation, for sure, but it’s also a choice whether or not you listen to those raging on about ‘industry plant’ nonsense. The fact of the matter is, not only are The Last Dinner Party incredibly cool in how rich their aesthetic already is, they’ve written 12 fantastic songs and laid them out beautifully.

Score: 8.0/10

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Munro Page

Munro Page is a music blogger and former student radio host based in Cardiff, Wales. He likes: thrift stores, cooking and parrots. He dislikes: chain restaurants, the M25 and Simply Red.