See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Judah Johnson

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Lately, it might seem that Detroit’s music scene divides easily into one of two categories: electronic music or garage rock. Such a picture, however, doesn’t account for sightings of DJs at the Godspeed You Black Emperor! show, or the indie rock contingent at Mouse on Mars last June. Truly, Detroit is an amalgam of tastes and styles — not all of which are exactly avant-garde. Judah Johnson is one band that proves that Detroit’s current renaissance stretches beyond its loudest and most obvious examples. Somewhere in this mixture, conventional and somber pop rock transforms into a uniquely beautiful and warm experience. At first, Judah Johnson sounds like Rufus Wainwright with a Bends-era Radiohead sensibility (“The Silent Treatment,” “Fortunecookie”). But Judah Johnson takes this trail to its bitter end where melodies wade in a downhearted abyss then slowly and steadily soar into the stratosphere, fading into quiet oblivion (“Tongue Kiss on Ecuador”).

Throughout, Judah Johnson maintains a successful balance between pensive restraint and dynamic intensity. Led by the powerfully soft, almost breathy voice of Dan Johnson; hypnotic guitars, drums, keyboards and bass play ornate counterpoint melodies to achieve a kinetic quality that is entirely rare. But Johnson’s vocals make the biggest impression. Like the aforementioned Wainwright and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Johnson gets close to their variety of airy, on-key sustain and vibrato — albeit of a more subdued variety.

As an album, however, Judah Johnson’s self-titled debut EP lacks a few songs and moods that might leave its audience fully satisfied. Mainly held together by a couple of great songs, Judah Johnson points to better things to come. It’s the feeling that if there are these few songs that reach so deeply and grasp so thoroughly at the essence which they seek, surely we’re due for some great surprises from them in the not-so-distant future.

Judah Johnson performs Saturday, Nov. 10 with Aloha and the Nervous Set at the Halfway Inn in Ann Arbor.

E-mail Robert Gorell at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Robert Gorell

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 14, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit