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Yann Le Dorré - Album Review: The Circus is Closed

19 Dec 2023 // A review by Peter-James Dries

We are Sex Bob-Omb and we're here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff!” - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

In my youth, Wellington felt like the artistic epicentre of the world. A small town boy, on trips to the city I was hypnotized by the sea of music, art, colour and weird fashion statements disguised as people, with their tea cosy hats and burlap sack vests.

It was on the streets of Newtown I had a transformative, almost religious experience, when I saw my first Goth. Gliding down the footpath, her eyes hidden beneath her ghostly make-up, her long black lace dress flowing behind. She’s only a smudged blur in my memory now, and was more likely stomping than floating ethereally, but it was a vision that changed my aesthetic forever.

Older now, to my eyes Te Whanganui-a-Tara is a sea of suits. Maybe it always was. Perhaps I’m just more primed to see them now, being in the corporate phase of my life. Maybe I value conformity, and stability, money more than freedom, artistic individuality, and rebellion, so that’s what I seek out and notice.

Hearing The Circus is Closed brought some sort of nostalgia for that world I was never even a part of. That artistic underworld of musicians, artists, and anarchists. Perhaps not the nostalgia Le Dorré was going for, with their scuffed Cowboy Western folk. Regardless, the kid withering in some corner of me was thankful to see that there are still pockets of the Neo-Bohemian society that haven’t been entirely priced out of former slums like Newtown, and still survive somewhere in the city.

“Survive,” not “thrive.” The tales on The Circus is Closed are dripping with a sardonic wit one adapts as a coping mechanism against a cruel world. Saturnine and melancholy, these songs would make Elliott Smith weep. Actually, he was a sook, so everything made him weep. Chuck Norris.

Tales of drink, and drugs, strained relationships, playing to empty bars, terrible gigs, and more drinking it will be relatable to any struggling artists out there. An aching depression of a record it may be, the emotional rawness in the crisp clear recording pulls it back from the point of parody and melodrama. The confidently restrained strumming of the solo guitar against Le Dorré’s younger Leonard Cohen like vocals are heartache manifest.

While it may be pitchy at times, if you can get past that it all becomes part of the aesthetic. If anything, it augments the songs. There’s no perfection in the gutter. If the singing was perfect, I don’t think the emotion would come across as well. Reviewers once chastised Cobain and Corgan for not singing in tune. Kids are still discovering and listening to them today and may still in the next and last generation of Western society.

Yes. Surviving, not thriving, though perhaps for the best as there is no true art without suffering.

That painting of the crying clown, if such a thing exists and isn't imaginary... It’s the image that comes to my mind every time I listen to The Circus is Closed at least. Maybe because he sung the word “circus” and I latched on to that, because my sub-conscious is more basic than I think I am. Perhaps it’s the dark humour bleeding through. Assuming it is dark humour. I’m not sure anyone sings earnestly about abortion. I’m assuming it was about abortion - or disappointing your dad... Take it as seriously as you want, but there’s a tongue in a cheek somewhere here.

It was a refreshing album. No pretence, no gloss or polish, no trying to be anyone else. Just a guy with a guitar and an interesting world view. All in all, Yann Le Dorré is a clever word-smith, an expressive guitar player. and severely underrated.

If only because there are too many people on this planet, and the internet has made it so too many of them can release music, even if they shouldn’t. Unless you’re in the right circles, or boxed in by strollers in the overwhelming crowd of Newtown festival, you may never find him. And that’s more depressing than The Circus is Closed. Almost.

Recommended for depressionists, and fans that wish Yolk’s Let’s Stay High Forever was performed with fewer instruments.

You can find The Circus is Closed on the Yann Le Dorré Bandcamp here.


About Yann Le Dorré

Yann Le Dorré is a folk musician based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. He sings saturnine songs for modern times and the stars too high in the sky. Drawing from 70’s singer- songwriters, outlaw country legends and 90’s grunge acts, he writes for the divorces and drunkards in a series of acoustic reports from the rain-drenched capital.

Formerly known for his work with Poneke's gutter folk band YOLK, Le Dorré is now embarking on his journey as a solo artist under his own namesake.

2023 has seen him release his debut single & video Missed, a piano man's lament to our very own Courtney Place and perform at the capital's beloved Newtown Fest.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Yann Le Dorré


The Circus is Closed
Year: 2023
Type: Album

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