We are all bodies in motion. We throb to connect with one another. Our hearts pulse as we near. We touch and ache with raw pleasure. We can feel so close to one another, nothing separates us. We reveal ourselves fully, as if naked. Skin becomes our only barrier. Can we go deeper? Can we pierce the flesh that keeps us apart? Can we place ourselves inside of another, entrusting to them not only our joys and pleasures, but our anxieties, our fears, our anguish? Not always, maybe never. But when we do – if we do – we may find sanctuary in such unity with another. Together, we think, we can conquer all obstacles, without and within. Together, we feel absolute pleasure. We gush, overflow with joy.
Patrick Cowley’s Afternooners is a collection of songs that originated as soundtracks to gay pornography in the 1970s. What unifies these songs is a sense of rhythm, a soft beat that makes it difficult not to imagine the debauchery of moustachioed men. With songs titled things like “One Hot Afternoon” and “Bore & Stroke,” such an image does not take much imagination to conjure. There is little complexity to be found in Cowley’s songs. In many respects, these songs are as simple as that: a consistent basis upon which to explore the most basic of human impulses. Each of these songs offers a variation on the theme. A slow build – funky synthesizer grooves, a catchy hook – and a climax. Then, filthy and panting, it comes to a close.
One might critique Afternooners for being repetitive – and it is. This is, of course, to be expected given its origin as a collection of single songs not exactly intended to be listened to. But beyond that, the repetition is an integral component of the pleasure that these songs are intended to create and supplement. Though these encounters of flesh may be fleeting and superficial, they are nonetheless experiences of human connection. It is only through repetition, an unwillingness to resign ourselves to solitude, that we may forge something meaningful. This passion, this pure love, that undergirds lust, is what Cowley’s songs are about. As the collection comes to a close with “Love come set me free,” you might find yourself liberated to pursue your purest, basest instincts.