From the moment it arrived from England last year, the Last Dinner Party’s “Nothing Matters” was the post-rock rock record that didn’t seem to exist anymore. A beautifully sneaky single, the band’s ode to an illicit encounter opens like the sound of ABBA with a hangover. Then the sweetness falls off, the music starts hammering, and singer Abigail Morris gets to the point: “And you can hold me like he held her/And I will fuck you like nothing matters.” Throw in a screechy guitar solo and Morris’ concluding swoop, and “Nothing Matters” was the heady cocktail of cabaret, dank indie and wuthering-heights pop we needed, even if we didn’t know it.
Appropriate for a band that came together just before and during the early years of the pandemic, Prelude to Ecstasy, their first full album, may be the ideal soundtrack for re-entering a messy world newly open for business. Much like “Nothing Matters,” songs like “Caesar on a TV Screen” and “Burn Alive” start like hung-over reveries before vaulting into trampoline pop, wrapping up with crashing crescendos. Over the course of an album, that approach veers towards formula. But there’s no denying the way their blowsy, unrestrained songs knock you upside and down and leave you with a dizzying high.
ABBA homages resurface, as do suggestions of Florence and the Machine. But Morris’ voice has a savage, cutting flutter all its own, and the Last Dinner Party have their oddball moments too: The extended breakdown in “On Your Side” that sounds like an electronic version of a Sonic Youth feedback maelstrom.
The Last Dinner Party’s uninhibited side extends to its lyrics, which recount one intense, perhaps brief, carnal relationship after another. “Oh, pull your boots on, boy, and put me down,” Morris sings in “The Feminine Urge.” “I’m only here for your entertainment/I am a dark red liver stretched out on a rock.” In “Portrait of a Dead Girl,” Morris spews about “the time I wasted in your mouth/Waves that crashed against your chest, over and over.” Whatever the sexuality (the band members identify as non-binary), the combined mood is also very post-lockdown: Let’s throw caution to the wind, since no one knows what’s around the next bend.
“My darling, believe me I was born to be with you,” Morris sings, “but it’ll be me that the world will answer to.” The creative ambitions that power each track make a line like that more than an empty boast. Jim Morrison once sang that he wanted the world and he wanted it now. The Last Dinner Party want whatever’s left of the world, in the time it has left. And from the sound of it, they’ll go down swinging, in every way.