Backed by The Venus 3 (Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rie?in), who sound much like his mid-’80s band, The Egyptians, Hitchcock returns to his trademark: arpeggiated guitars swirling around hyperactive basslines with whimsical lyrics cloaked in harmony that turn dark without warning. He’s always drawn attention with his surrealistic jottings and bizarre juxtapositions, but here it’s the gorgeous backing harmonies that accompany “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs,” the lonesome pine that creeps into his voice during “Red Locust Frenzy,” and “N.Y. Doll”—his ?tting tribute to late bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane—that are Hitchcock’s enduring strengths. Literate but rarely literal, the man says more by trailing a note upward at line’s end than by whatever ?xed de?nition you might conjure. There’s an undeniable sadness underpinning much of his later work. The joyous outbursts feel burdened by life’s inevitables. He still sings about spaceships, but he also knows he needs to land the shuttle.