Explore Heartbreak With The Decemberists

Melancholy motif.


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Photo by Autumn DeWilde

The Decemberists have never been afraid to peer in on the lives (and deaths) of more unusual narrators, whether it’s an obsessed sailor plotting revenge against a shipmate while languishing in the belly of a whale (“The Mariner’s Revenge Song”) or an injured college athlete lying prone on the field (“The Sporting Life”). But beyond the quirky and the irreverent, the band always seems to gravitate back to the melancholy theme of innocence snuffed out—of children abandoned and murdered.

From “Eli the Barrow Boy” to “Leslie Anne Levine” to “The Rake’s Song,” it’s a recurring motif throughout the band’s oeuvre and part of an old musical tradition stretching back to the Scottish and English murder ballads of the 17th century. Their quirky steampunk rhythms belie a yearning for answers from a callous world that allows such wanton cruelty.

The band’s latest studio album, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, tackles these questions head-on, exploring the tragedy and heartbreak of the Sandy Hook school shooting, and eschewing the band’s signature coy Victorian flourishes for a budding maturity.

Aug. 17, 8 p.m., $45, Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, TheFoxOakland.com.

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