Still alive: Inches to Flood, inches from fame?

Inches to Flood debuted on Tokyo Rose's subterranean stage several years ago. I remember them as being pretty good, with promise. But I wondered at the time if they would survive... or get trampled, elbowing for attention in an already overcrowded genre.

For the generation weaned on detachment and cynicism of the '80s, the search for authenticity was a struggle. Once all those hamburglar kids and Reagan youth burst into self-awareness and became of band-making age, a sizeable following latched on "emo" (from emo-tive), a style of music known for its lyrical self-revelation, complicated melodies, and rhythmic shifts.

The two biggest influences– Sunny Day Real Estate and Rites of Spring-­ elevated punk's disenchantment to an intensely personal level. The tight, twisting songs– a far cry from radio rock's three-chord torpor– sometimes climaxed in moments of onstage (and offstage) sorrow.

The intimacy was meaningful, but its seductive power soon bloated clubs with second-rate third-wave emo bands. The glut of scuffed shoes and "Dear Diary" angst made wearing one's heart on one's sleeve the epitome of cool (and there are lots of kids out there who want to be cool).

With the sincerity diluted, it seemed as if these big arrows to life's bruises blinked a tacky advertisement for whining. Just as punk's label has been so grotesquely distorted to encompass even lil Avril Lavigne, the "bad Britney," emo, on a smaller scale, eventually morphed from the pangs of a searching heart into the frowns of a sad clown. If you have to force or feign a mood swing, with the intent of carrying a band to stardom, then you are missing the point entirely.

The composer Claude Debussy often complained about his imitators, who followed him around Europe with their tepid impressionistic scores.

Now that the crowds are thinning, I'm glad to know Inches to Flood is still alive, keeping the flame. Although emo has become more of a slur, and less of a description, I think that their new EP, yet unnamed, falls within the original, unadulterated definition of the word.

Inches to Flood seemed to disappear for a while; their hibernation in the practice space has done them well. They've matured considerably. The minor key hooks crease neatly over the shifting time signatures, the lyrics are well-sung and well-written, the bass lines move with parabolic smoothness.

They tackle with gravity, without appearing humorless or superfluous. Expression is the aim, and their priorities are in order... I like where they're headed.

Inches to Flood will be playing Friday, April 4, at Tokyo Rose with Richmond-based Gregor Samsa, and an electronic artist, Metal. I believe their EP will be available at the show.