Week 354: “Night Flight” by The Bowling Alley Sound

I was never a big fan of ten-pin bowling.

The ball was unmanageably large, and I had an irrational but real fear that upon releasing it, one of my fingers would detach, hitching a gruesome ride down the bowling lane.

The shoes smelled like warm, wet mittens…an odor only partially masked by whatever chemical they were sprayed with in order to maintain the illusion of hygiene. Plus, the slickness of the soles made you walk like a fawn on a frozen pond.

Despite all the awkwardness built into recreational bowling, it somehow still managed to be a popular dating activity when I was in high school. Going on a bowling date (or, more often, double date) was a nightmare and rite of passage all in one. The smelly, borrowed footwear, the heavy equipment that made me feel like a weakling, the awareness that one’s backside was on full display with every trip to the line.

My only chance at salvation was the fact that here in Canada, we have something called five-pin bowling. This is thanks to my fellow Canadian, Thomas Ryan, who felt sympathy for weaklings like me, and created five-pin bowling in 1909 as an alternative for the biceptually challenged. The ball was just a bit bigger than a softball, and the smaller number of pins made you feel like more of a marksman if you actually hit any of them.

Thomas Ryan’s invention created the perfect bowling-date loophole. If you were clever about it, you could take your date bowling, and start with ten-pin. After allowing your date to go first and watching her ball thunder hopelessly into the gutter, you could then suggest, with a careful touch of chivalry, that “maybe we should play five-pin instead.” She feels relieved, you avoid embarrassment, everyone wins.

So thank you, Mr. Ryan, for making my early dating life slightly more bearable. If you think of a solution to the shoes, please let us know.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. If you’re going to be a post-rock band, having an awesome name is pretty much mandatory, and The Bowling Alley Sound certainly qualifies. The name comes from a dream one band member had, where the group played a gig in a bowling alley. Which would have made any of my bowling dates much more exciting.

2. The repeated, looping arpeggios in the guitar give an impression of infinity, like the endless setting and re-setting of bowling pins.

3. The only percussive element in the song is the shuffling, brush-like sound that keeps time. Its count is kept in triplets though, which creates a nice cross-rhythm while giving the listener’s ear a metronomic anchor. Amid those repeating arpeggios, that little shaker sound gives us the grip we need. Kind of like those three little finger holes on a bowling ball.

Recommended listening activity:

Playing a difficult video game on the easiest setting.

Available here February 24th.