photo credits: Cal McIntyre / @calmcintyrestudio on Instagram
The Last Dinner Party and the Power of the Queer Female Gaze: ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ Album Review


Seeing The Last Dinner Party open for Hozier back in December was nothing short of bewitching.

Forming in 2021, after meeting as university students in London, The Last Dinner Party has recently skyrocketed to the Top of the UK charts, burgeoning from virtually 0 to 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify in the space of around a year.

Also, the band have just recently won the Rising Star award at the BRITS 2024. It’s been a soaring rise to notoriety and when you listen to their Debut album; ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ it’s not surprising why.

Bursting with themes of lust, the queer female gaze, feminine rage, gender envy, and catholic guilt wrapped up in, electric guitars, mandolins and flute; the record, opens rather atypically for an indie rock album.

With a classical fanfare, establishing immediately the band’s multi-layered perspective, dramatic gothic and romantic style, and their ability to draw from multiple modern and classical musical influences alike, they refuse to be placed in any one box.

The opening track, seems to be something worthy of a film soundtrack. The fanfare for the tragic hero, think Shakespeare had a child with John Williams and Beethoven.

Yet here, they take the typically male-dominated fanfare and put their feminine spin on it, something that can’t quite be defined, perhaps it is the unapologetically heightened nature of the piece.

Women and queer people know too well what it’s like being told we are too much, too emotional, too feisty, too big, too thin, too loud, too ambitious. Yet as a maximalist band, The Last Dinner Party turns this on its head and never apologises for being “too much”. Their opening statement clear; we’re here, we’re queer, pay attention.

From dramatic instrumentals, the record seamlessly jumps into the alluring guitar riff of ‘Burn Alive’, a track that plays heavily with seemingly juxtaposing themes that become interlinked, experiences of grief interplaying with an addiction to a toxic relationship as a form of escapism.

The song expertly balances a complex narrative of fatal attraction.

The seductive nature of the musicality contrasting with the perturbing nature of the lyricism, and even still in the instrumentals there’s a sense of danger brewing in the undertones behind the guitar riffs. In the song, desire and danger become intrinsically linked.

Seeing it live adds even more layers to it, lead vocalist Abigail Morris seems to evoke an effortless sensuality in her performance alongside a poignant diction in her delivery of the lyrics.

Photo credits: Sadie Coll

The third track is ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’. It is one of many songs on the album that masterfully explores gender power dynamics. For me what stands out most about this number is its lyricism, only a few lines in we get the lyric:

“When I put on my suit, I don’t have to stay mute.”

‘Caesar on a Tv Screen’ by The Last Dinner Party

To me, this is the core of the song’s central dichotomy; many like Simone de Beauvoir have highlighted that we as women must either use the ‘feminine wiles of our sex’ or prescribe to a traditional expression of masculinity to get a head in society.

“I’ll be Caesar on a TV screen, champion of my fate….and everyone will like me then” bottles the feeling of exhaustion of trying to prescribe to a male perception of strength just so we will be liked (Barbie monologue: I’m looking at you).

The line “when I was a child, I never felt like a child, I felt like an emperor with a city to burn” reveals the hidden ambition of the speaker and how their ambition is suppressed by the Patriarchy or moulded into a particular way of masculine realisation:

However, the line that stays with me most from this song is perhaps:

“to talk about red scare and how they got it right.”

‘Caesar on a TV Screen’ by The Last Dinner Party

Which is a nod to the ideological witch hunts that shattered the diversity of the U.S political spectrum. It is a truly powerful way to call out the championing of the masculine over the feminine.

On a personal level, the themes of gender envy running throughout their music are often highly relatable as a queer woman. In ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’, the speaker refers to being able to have “anyone”; I interpret this as the speaker confessing that to love a woman in a male-perceived body would mean being able to love a woman free of societal judgement.

These strong feelings of gender envy are continued in the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ (my personal favourite on the record). It’s wrapped up stunningly in a flute accompanying again powerful lyrics, ranging from anger at the state of the climate under a patriarchal society to the whims of male pretty privilege.

This comes from an anecdote from lead singer Abigail Morris (who wrote the lyrics), about her incredibly beautiful guy friend who appears to get away with anything, including stealing a bottle of rum at one of their concerts.

‘The Feminine Urge’ expertly deals with feminist themes and the generational trauma of misogyny in the stunning line:

 “here comes the feminine urge I know it so well, to nurture the wounds my mother held.”

‘The Feminine Urge’ by The Last Dinner Party

Truly the whole of the album is explosive; operatic vocals, critically placed harmonies, striking guitar riffs, classical instruments blending with elements of heavy rock and an unapologetic theatricality, which can be seen most clearly in songs like ‘My Lady of Mercy’ and ‘Nothing Matters’ which unsurprisingly have been some of their biggest hits.

There’s much running throughout this entire album, the band’s aesthetic and their music videos that reminded me greatly of music legends like Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, and Florence Welch. Yet, to put them in the box of their predecessors also feels restrictive.

They are all this and more; they are their own sound; they are The Last Dinner Party, with years of unruly, unapologetic women’s music behind them, flowing through them, in front of them and carried with them.

The record ends on the song ‘Mirror’, a song that explores the precarious tightrope artists often walk between processing or commodifying their pain.

It’s a perfect thematic end to the record, as throughout the whole album the songs have walked this line of extremes: extremes of emotions, extremes of musicality, and extremes of themes.

The album, in conclusion, is an unapologetic, beautifully crafted tightrope walk.

The Last Dinner Party go on tour again this summer, tickets are admittedly in rare availability, but if you can get any go for it! Maybe I’ll see you there because The Last Dinner Party, as electric as they are on the page already, truly are a transcendent sight live.

, , , , , , , ,
Similar Posts
Latest Posts from