Monocle Man, prose, CD single, underscored with Herrick’s original music and vocals. The second track features the music alone.
Review by Gabriel Ricard
Leigh Herrick’s flawless spoken-word poem, “Monocle Man” is a full-length feature film in terms of its harrowing imagery put to a beautiful, ghostly, passionate voice and equally haunting music.... There’s a certain amount of patience with something like this. You just don’t know what you’re going to wind up with. Even the broadest mind in the world can still be surprised. I couldn’t even venture a guess of what I was going to find on this two-track single. That’s one of the charms of discovering spoken-word material. The best artists in the field can offer nothing less as an introduction than the element of surprise. One of the best things they can do is shake you out of a preconception about the world in general. Sometimes, that element of surprise is a good thing. Sometimes, it isn’t. Monocle Man is one of those good surprises....
The first trip through Herrick’s bizarre world was the most interesting one. The story is told with a voice that brings to mind weary veterans of AA meetings. Set against music that drips off the words like leaky pipes, it occasionally whips itself into a frenzy of metal banging while background vocals rise to a haunted house howl. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much popular music lately. That’s certainly possible, and it could account for why Monocle Man’s initial listen was such a shock to the system. The tone, music and some of the stronger images in the piece were so engaging that it was impossible to come to any kind of an opinion when it was all over. There was the suspicion that it was indeed a brilliant work from one of the most provocative talents in the field. That was certainly a lingering thought, but it was difficult to know for sure. Ideally, the best spoken word poetry will do this to you every time. The most enduring works are the ones that refuse to be initially and unconditionally pleasing. They want your attention for at least a handful of listens.
Knowing this I went back to it for a second round and was pleased to find my first impression emphasized and then improved upon. The voice was still there, the music and the overall scene Herrick so beautifully constructs. It was all there, and it got even better when some of the imagery began to sink in. Herrick does a truly inspired job in escalating the hushed madness in her voice and story. The great magic trick of the whole thing is in how it seems to build towards something, only to stop and settle into the everyday. Or at least it settles into Herrick’s concept of the everyday. It almost seems to come full circle, but it’s difficult to know that for sure. As in a lot of poetry, there’s a certain amount of interpretation left to the reader. Herrick is pretty specific in what she’s trying to say, but there’s still some room for discussion and for what the poem pushes to the front of your thoughts and memories.
The third listen settled all thoughts on the poem for good. There was no doubt in my mind as it finished that I had just listened to one of the most profound pieces of spoken word poetry that I’ve heard in entirely too long. It also revealed a suspicion that had first come to mind during the first listen. Some of the most remarkable points in the story are the ones that involve Herrick describing the people around her. Some of them would probably feel right at home in a David Lynch movie. Others are commonplace figures who still gain an unnatural, almost disturbing [presence] through Herrick’s voice and skill for imagery. It’s in these characterizations and in painting the parts of her world that she wants us to see that Herrick gives us the best performance aspects of “Monocle Man.” Hers is the perfect performance for a poem such as this because it never gets too full of itself. It remains low-key and therefore enhances the rest.
Monocle Man also features a music-only track featuring the score from the piece. There’s a beautiful, appropriate painting by Branko Gulin for the cover art as well. Neither of those bonuses is essential to enjoying “Monocle Man,” but they don’t hurt. They simply make a perfect thing a contradiction by making it even better.
Believe it or not, but “Monocle Man” is just a little over twelve minutes long.
-Gabriel Ricard, Unlikely Stories