EW's editor-at-large marvels at the emotion the cop drama's actors Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins convey without saying a word. Plus: Cartoon complexity with ''The Venture Bros.,'' and musical gems from the Lifesavas, Blake Shelton, and Elizabeth Cook

By Ken Tucker
Updated May 14, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Prashant Gupta

Pure BS

  • Music

Silence is golden on ”The Shield”

1. No Need For Lots Of Talk In The Shield
(FX, Tues., May 15)
Last week’s crescendo-episode, in which Shane admits he murdered Lem (that’s right, this is a real fan’s item — can’t pause to ID every character), was an all-time series high point, but don’t underestimate this week’s aftermath-episode. Both Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins act as though they were in a silent film, which I mean as a compliment: Every emotion registers on their faces with degrees of subtlety — the dialogue (about betrayal and trust and anger and things we’ve heard about in countless cop dramas) doesn’t need to be spoken. We as viewers are powerfully affected when they gaze at each other and into their own souls.

2. Music From The Best Blaxploitation Movie You’ll Never See: The Lifesavas’ Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack
(Quannum Projects/TVT CD)
Gorgeously languid, less menacing than seductive, Gutterfly offers a portrait of black inner-city life as an imaginary hardboiled thriller, with the Lifesavas collaborating with like-minded funkateers such as Fishbone and, most crucially, George Clinton, who busts out his Mr. Wiggles character for the thrilling ”Night Out.”

3. Cartoon complexity with The Venture Bros. Season Two
I watched the first few episodes of the debut season of this determinedly wacky Cartoon Network adventure series, and then it dropped off my radar. Thanks to DVD, I am now re-enthralled by this amazingly intricate, intentionally ridiculous, vulgar, and witty Adult Swim show. To me, The Venture Bros. is everything Lost should be and a bit more — it’s got exotic-locale adventure, but it’s yanked about by a twisted sense of the absurd. My favorite episode on this two-disc set may be ”Escape To The House Of Mummies (Part 2).” There was no ”Part 1,” though it begins with an artfully edited, chopped-up synopsis of the preceding, nonexistent episode. From there, things only get hairier for the brothers, as well as the surpassingly sarcastic Dr. Venture, the stolid bodyguard Brock, and an assortment of insect and primate villains. It’s all too much, and not enough — thank goodness a new third season has been announced.

4. Country Music Is Alive and Well (Part 1): Blake Shelton’s Pure BS
(Warner Bros. CD)
In the past, Shelton’s burly growl hasn’t always been the most expressive of instruments, but on this album, he’s found a batch of songs that bring out the best in his guttural phrasing. These include the fine power ballad ”Don’t Make Me” and the superfine ”The More I Drink,” a clever addition to the vast canon of alcohol-country music, at once celebratory and admonitory: ”If I have one, I have thirteen / Now there ain’t no in-between,” indeed.

5. Country Music Is Alive and Well (Part 2): Elizabeth Cook’s Balls
(31 Tigers CD)
I will spare you yet another EW rave for Miranda Lambert’s new album (yes, it really is as good as my colleague Chris Willman and others have been saying), and instead urge you to experience another woman’s country singing as well. Elizabeth Cook takes her album title from her fine novelty song ”Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman,” but the one that’ll give you goosebumps is ”Don’t Go Borrowin’ Trouble,” in which producer Rodney Crowell contrasts her piercing moan with rumbly bass and stinging fiddles. This may be the sleeper country album of the year.

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