A Hedonist's Reprieve
The Inevitable Rise of The Last Dinner Party
In the quiet, dandelion-kissed mid-afternoon of May, a name that evoked Christian holiness and blush-pink eight-year-old birthday parties crowned with red velvet cake peeked its head on my YouTube recommended page. Hanging above the channel name "The Last Dinner Party" were five young women dressed head-to-toe in the gothic finery of a Victorian widow and carrying the weight of a fallen angel trying to make amends, writing a diary over the days, that held on this page, the potion of trading in heartache for lust, and the madness that it brings.
Meeting prior to University, founding members Abigail Morris (vocals), Georgia Davies (bass) and Lizzie Mayland (guitar) found each other in London's underground music Elysium with lead guitarist Emily Roberts and pianist Aurora Nishevci soon following. The newly formed outfit faced the trials of the pandemic head-on by threading together lace ribbons and blood red roses, sage bushels and rose quartz, bronze crosses and blessed water, raven fangs and satin moth wings, onyx shoegaze, fairy grunge, and Catholic cathedral chants.
"Nothing Matters" is a charm of a secret, illicit-seeming, society of the daughters of exiled witches - all ivory, ruffled gowns, black silk gloves, chalices of cherry wine and blood in the sink, pure of artificiality. The frontwoman's voice is soft and quivering like a petal curling into itself for protection, following a cautious and lily-delicate trusting rhythm. In dialogue with the single's subject matter, the music is akin a Pre-Raphaelite blanket of moss and tiny white daisies - a feather-light, guiding electric guitar melody, the careful interplay of tender, evergreen guitars, twin ethereal harp and whimsical mandolin strums that mimic the intervention of heaven, plush, silky, soft-grass drumming that can be wrapped up in for safety, divinely lilting instrumentation resembling of church bells, a gradually unfurling and retreating rhythm, soaring, wrenching harmonies that mimic the salvation or penance of meaningless sex, and a drawing out of the singing and blues-y instruments in the bridge, like a gutsy, regret-less, yet tragic-twinged Hail Mary.
Their second single "Sinner" shares attributes of Baroque pop and alternative-rock with the fire-and-brimstone of the New England of Nathaniel Hawthorne's day - a satiny, princess' vocal melody sung by Abigail's lullaby voice, ivory-velvet keys, shy, innocent flute notes, industrial, jasper-esque guitar riffs that climb and blaze scarlet-red in the bridge, heavy, iron-ore drumming, a ruby-shining and growling bass, and stolen angelic melodies. "Sinner's" literature is romantic poetry kissed by the tradition of Byron and Wordsworth from a studied yet even tender-hearted author and a dove-feather quill addressed to a forbidden sapphic love. Lyrics secretly transposed on loose leaf pages in the faint candlelight of a darkened kitchen that whisper of the sweetness and playfulness of touch, and purity of love, shared in silent meadows in the midsummer warmth and early days of autumn, that would be unsoiled if not for the judgement and guilt of religion. The choral pre-chorus is composed of grievous promises to one's love and to one's tell-tale heart of the body's cleansing in the waters of a river nearby or the bathtub when one arrives home - "Wait for me / We will be soaking in the crystal stream / Wash the sin from your back."
The Last Dinner Party's third 2023 single, "My Lady of Mercy" grasps in a first fist, the pale golden elegance and secrecy of Belle Epoque and in its free hand, the powerful swing bands of 1920s New Orleans. On the number the band knives the canvases of the female body out of their daunting platinum frames, destroying the concept of woman as a timeless idol, in a singed-violet cloak to witness and to work, obscured in the shadows of the gallery, stealing for women the role of the keeper and thrower of arrows. The number's composer appears to emulate the charcoal-heart of Stravinsky, casting women as the hunter and men as the fawn, upsetting the religious tradition of woman as unblemished and acted upon. The sugary, fluffy verses are like French pastry, of regal air and a gilded jazz-age drumbeat, shining strings and gentle vocals - a tribute to the healing of female patron saints, first in the form of purification and secondly, in the form of fortification. The Last Dinner Party summon the intwining spirits of key-hearted Aphrodite, bright-eyed Athena, and strong-armed Artemis. What follows are gluttonously decadent choruses - a powerful gothic melody, a ceremonial, vampiric choral arrangement of Abigail, Lizzie and Aurora's voices, smoldering, terrifying electric guitar, screeching strings and foreboding production. Overwhelm is the spell, not to have male lovers be obsessed, but to be maddened - a deep, malicious bass line and an eerie unboundedness of the young women's voices in the bridge reach far into the horrific.
The Last Dinner Party enchanted the four walls of Apple Music's London Sessions with their divine neoclassicist luminosity in late November, performing a hauntingly sacramental tribute to the Joan of Arc of dismantling the Catholic church, Sinead O'Conner. 2023 birthed The Last Dinner Party eloquently dissecting their artistic visions, philosophical ideals, inspirations, thoughts on experimentation, and ambitions on such iconic digital homes as The Zane Lowe Show, ALT CTRL Radio, The Matt Wilkinson Show and Elton John's Rocket Hour.
The eternally clairvoyant Rolling Stones (featuring the dauntless, sapphire heart-bandaged knees of my Beaches in Toronto in 2018 and the cinnamon whiskey-soaked glamour of Rome's Måneskin in Las Vegas in 2021) asked for The Last Dinner Party as their introduction to their Hyde Park performance in Summer 2022. The Last Dinner Party fulfilled the role of the nightshade-touched onyx to Florence & the Machine's frankincense-kissed moonstone on the second's European "Dance Fever" tour and grasped premier spots at the U.K.'s iconoclastic Glastonbury and Latitude Festivals.
Of 2024's Prelude to Ecstasy: the album's iconography is a family portrait of princesses, the crown of an aged altar packed to the brim with beeswax candles and lacey, ivory-white flowery weeds. "On Your Side" likely braids together dandelions and wildflowers with butter-yellow carnations, snow-white lilies, and dark-red roses in a sign of eternal friendship; "Caesar on a TV Screen" breaks down a heroic, marble man into the pieces he places on to charm adoring crowds and the piece she hides from not just the light of day, but his own eyes; "The Feminine Urge" intertwines the strings of the luxuriant seduction of the male species, the petrification of trying to win the heavenly title of perfection, and the rage (nearly monstrous) that comes with growing up as a girl; "Portrait of a Dead Girl" reasons and contests the powder-white, rouge-blushed innocence of dead Ophelia in the spring of youth. Prelude to Ecstasy, as evidenced by the band's work thus far, will toss a beanbag from the hand of idolatry to the hand of luminescent and decaying girlhood (whether there is a difference between the two themes the jury may never be out).