The Last Dinner Party is a love-them-or-hate-them band: Either you are charmed by the theatricality—the high-fashion take on barmaid/wench costumery, singer Abigail Morris’ over-the-top delivery, the musical girl-power of it all—or you are likely to roll your eyes. Lush, louche, lusty and fun, the band’s songs and style draw from a history of Siouxsie Sioux, Bryan Ferry, Florence Welch and early ‘80s New Romantics. It’s the kind of grand-scale zeitgeist shift, kick-started by Wet Leg, that was inevitable after the humble trend of lo-fi bedroom pop.
“Nothing Matters,” the alternative-radio hit, is truly excellent, with an alchemic formula of clicky New Wave drums, hair-metal guitar riffs, vivid trumpets and a cathartic chorus meant to be shouted at shows: “And you can hold me like he held her/ And I will fuck you like nothing matters.” “Caesar on a TV Screen” is wonderfully weird, encompassing swoony verses, a mischievous Roxy Music-style pre-chorus and a majestic chorus. Morris (who sounds like her arched eyebrow never drops) chews up all the scenery—over-enunciating, milking her English accent, and having the time of her life—with lines like “And just for a second, I could be one of the greats/ I am Caesar on a TV screen, champion of my fate!”
Earworm “My Lady of Mercy” is about having a crush on Joan of Arc and sounds like crusaders rushing into battle, complete with cheerleader handclaps, rumble-strip rhythm, a snarling guitar line from Emily Robert and a monster chorus. The Infectious “Sinner” offers tempestuous Morris the sweetened foil of guitarist Lizzie Mayland, as the two trade verses and harmonize over Aurora Nishevci’s baroque piano; it feels like a delightful game of cat-and-mouse. Appropriately, Prelude to Ecstasy is mixed by A-list producer Alan Moulder, who has a long history of working with high-drama bands like My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails and Interpol, and he helps The Last Dinner Party go up to 11: Spinal Tap meets Velvet Goldmine.
(Visually, it’s hard to recall a rock band having this much fun with fashion—referencing everything from Picnic At Hanging Rock to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette—since early Duran Duran and Culture Club.) Even the less-bombastic moments, like ballerina-sweet piano ballad “On Your Side” or the chamber pop of “Portrait of a Dead Girl,” play cinematically.