Truth is often stranger than fiction for Robyn Hitchcock. During an interview a few years ago, he described a scene as absurd as his surrealistic lyrics. "My wife has just been to the Arctic Circle on a two-masted schooner, circumnavigating Spitsbergen," he said. "So I've been looking after the cat." Then again, you'd expect nothing less from the absent-minded professor of Nuggets
-style psychedelic garage rock. While Hitchcock's prolific solo career long ago eclipsed the sparse output of his first band, the Soft Boys -- just listen to gems like "Balloon Man," "My Wife and My Dead Wife," and "I Often Dream of Trains" -- the delicate balance he strikes between whimsy and wistfulness continues to grow more nuanced. Earlier this year, Hitchcock and the Venus 3 (Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, and Bill Rieflin from the Minus 5) released Olé! Tarantula
, a deceptively cheerful disc highlighted by the fizzy "Adventure Rocket Ship" and "Underground Sun," a longing song drenched in gorgeous harmonies.