"Steam Engine" as written by and Jim James....
So, I do believe
None of this is physical
At least not to me
So, I do believe
That anywhere it goes
It's always with me
It's not the dream
That makes you weak
It's not the night
That makes you sleep
But it's a voice
And it's a choice
To call you out or stay at home

So! I do believe
None of this is physical
At least not to me
So, I do believe
That anywhere it goes
It's always with me
It's not the beast
It's not the sheets
So soft and warm
All over me
But, it's the touch
You need so much
To move around
On this green earth

Take your money and your drugs
Take your money and your drugs
To anyone who wondered
What old Jebus meant to me
Take him out to go diving
In Red Patoka Sea
The brain melts in the twilight
With the boar and moving trees
Your skin looks good in moonlight
And god damn, those shaky knees
The fact that my heart's beating
Is all the proof you need

Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery

"Steam Engine" as written by Jim James


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Steam Engine song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentDoes anyone else see this song as an exploration of the metaphysical? I feel that James is trying to convey that its not the physical things in this life that contribute actual meaning, but rather those that are intangible. All the feelings that we experience through our senses are simply indications of the existence of something transcendent of the world in which we live. The experiences in which we are offered glimpses of these things are more meaningful, according to James, than the sum of their aesthetic value. In my opinion, when the song says, "None of this is physical, at least not to me... So, I do believe that anywhere it goes, it's always with me," is an expression of God's metaphysical omnipresence and power.

    The very title of the song, to me, imparts that this world is powered by something beyond our senses. "Steam" being a reference to a "ghost" or metaphysical being that we cannot see, but whose presence we can feel, and "Engine" indicating it's driving force in our world, like God's omnipotent plan for all of us.

    James tells others to "take your money and your drugs," he doesn't need them. The truth and peace that he experiences through his interaction with God offers him an abundant joy that these empty idols cannot touch. He has found meaning and value for his life in something beyond the pleasures and pursuits of our physical world.

    James asks all who are still unsure of his feelings about God, (To anyone who wonders, what old Jebus (Jesus) meant to me...) to simply go to Red Patoka Sea, experience its beauty and magic, and their question will be answered. James had a personally meaningful experience here (your skin looks good in moonlight, and god damn those shaky knees), in the midst of its natural beauty, where he was weakened and humbled by his realization of God's glory. The song's thesis rests in that line, "To anyone who wonders, what old Jebus (Jesus) meant to me..." when placed in conjunction with "The fact that my hearts beating, is all the proof you need..." The inherent and miraculous beauty, complexity and mystery of life points to the reality of a higher power.

    Finally, the song ends with the chanting of words that, on other sites, are listed as "I believe," but to me sound like some combination of the phrases "He bought it" or "He got 'em," referencing Jesus' salvation and love for sure. The music lifts the listener as James' chanting becomes reminiscent of a praise chorus, an overflow of emotion for his beautiful Creator.

    Whether you agree with me or not, the emotion expressed and evoked by this song is truly a thing of beauty. Tell me what you think!
    HearTheMeaningon May 14, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI have the last line of this phenomenal song tattoed on my back' "The fact that my heart's beating is all the pr you need" and below it, the album's title It Still Moves in identical font from album cover. I love it. That line gives me goosebumps each and every (countless) time I hear it.
    kudinurseon November 13, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI believe Hearthemeaning did a nice job with his explanation, but much like TheKinfaun's interpretation I have to lean more towards a secular explanation of the lyrics, and though I won't go into as much detail as Hearthemeaning I'll try to clarify...

    I think we can all agree this song is certainly about the presence of something beyond the physical world and what is tangible or quantifiable by scientific or technological means. I love the line "Take your money and your drugs" because it seems to imply drugs (recreational or prescribed) and money are not the solution to the most miserable moments in life. It's almost as if this song communicates that life is all about the relationships we have with those around us and it's your own thoughts at moments like that which make life seem beautiful and worth living. In this sense the 'Steam Engine' would be more like intellect, powered by our thoughts (the steam).

    If you look at the song's structure, in each of the three parts separated by the repetitious portion you see that there is a reference to an interpersonal relationship:
    -First, there is: "...but it's a voice and it's a choice to call you out or stay at home"
    -Second, you have: "...but it's the touch you need so much to move around on this green earth"
    -Third is: "...your skin looks good in moonlight and god damn those shaky knees, the fact that my heart's beating is all the proof you need"

    Though I can't be certain of what exactly James' is referring to in this song, I tend to think it's perhaps the soul or the realm of emotion and thought, or it may be God (though I kind of hope not, it lessens the impact to me). Personally I feel it's about emotion, in the end they connect us all, at least in the sense that they allow us to empathize/sympathize with those around us. When you think back to the most joyous events of your life were you alone? I find when I think about those times I was most often with friends or family and it seemed as though there was something special and transcendent about those moments. Now think about the most miserable moments in your life, the pain and the hurt that crush your soul; Then the relief and comfort you can find in loving embrace of another or just in talking things out with a friend. To me that's what this song is about because we all share the human experience.

    Besides, the only concrete religious mention I see is: "To anyone who wondered what old Jesus meant to me, take him out to go diving in Red Patoka Sea" and I'm thinking this lyric is either wrong or an allusion to something else. After searching, I can find no reference to a "Red Patoka Sea" the only thing I find is Patoka, IL (which is landlocked unless you count Lake Michigan adjacent) or Patoka Lake, IN (for which I can find no mention of marvelous underwater vistas, so what could be moving about diving there?). It's entirely possible James intended a religious undertone for this song (I don't know), while my interpretation may not mesh with every line, that is just not what I gather from the lyrics.
    SadLoveon January 07, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's fascinating to see how a great song like this is like a mirror showing each of us what we we are. One person sees this as a deeply religious song, another as an affirmation in their disbelief in religion. Like great literature, paintings, or any other work of art, this song is so powerful because it can speak to both points of view. I suspect that the answer, if there has to be only one, to the meaning James had when he wrote it is somewhere in between the interpretations we have seen.

    I have to say that this is just a beautiful song. I have an even greater favorite on this album, a song entitled "One In The Same" I find it to be equally mesmerizing and that it carries a similar message that we shouldn't take anything too seriously, but rather that the experiences we have in life are what count, the relationships we have with others, the memories and emotions that result are key.

    I was one who had a pessimistic view of the music of my generation. I thought that there was little being produced that carried true emotion. My wife knew Jim James and Patrick Hallahan when they were all kids and she turned me on to My Morning Jacket. They have reaffirmed my faith in humanity in so far as man's ability to make truly heartfelt music.

    I can honestly say that the shared experience I had with them and thousands of fans under the full moon 08/16/2008 at the Louisville waterfront part was one of the most transcendent experiences imaginable. It was as though we were all experiencing this music together as a unified force of humanity. To me that is the beauty of life. If anyone gets the opportunity catch them live, I promise you will never forget it!
    marvinbernardon March 17, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningJim James said the following about this song in an interview:
    "It's about a lot of things. There's a line where I say, "I believe none of this is physical." It is kind of a reaction to, in today's world, so much being based on the physical. So much is based on people's appearance and fashion. So many bands seem like they're a part of a fashion show and they don't even give a shit about their music. It's about loving a song because of the way it makes you feel, not because the people playing it are wearing duck costumes or because there's 30 people on stage. It's about falling in love with someone because of the way they make you feel, as opposed to them wearing tight jeans and being hot. I'm just trying to escape from the fuckin' constant, physically driven fashion show that the world has become"
    Kashikaon April 04, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's been said, but I'll say it again...what a beautiful and powerful song. I like the first comment about being a robot. This really is a moving song. Possibly MMJ's best. I love what Jim had to say about it, too.

    One of the things I love the most about these guys is the spirituality that comes through in their lyrics. No one would ever mistake these guys for a christian band (I'm not aware of any christian bands using the phrase 'god damn' in their songs, but I could be wrong), but I think Jim definitely feels a strong sense of a connection to something more universal. A lot of his lyrics ('Thank You, Too!' & 'Look at You' from Evil Urges, and 'Wordless Chorus' & 'Gideon' from Z come to mind) deal with spiritual themes. I'm not a christian, but I can see where people get references to Jesus and his religion in some of the music. Obviously, this song has a pretty direct one. But I think Jim's spiritual themes are bigger than one guy or belief system. As someone mentioned earlier, one of the great aspects of this song is how it provides a 'mirror' for people to interpret it in their own way. I try to understand songs on their own, in their own context before exploring their personal meanings to me, so this is what I take from it:

    "So, I do believe
    *That anywhere it goes*
    It's always with me."

    Man, this line just floors me. He doesn't say, "Anywhere *I* go, it's always with me." He says, "Anywhere *IT* goes, it's always with me." That's just such an incredible idea to me. That whatever *it* is, it's dynamic and changing, but it's omnipresent. He's found something that transcends the physical world and that's always with him, even as it changes. Maybe he feels it stronger some days than others (as it comes and goes), but it's always with him.

    "But it's a voice. And it's a choice.
    To call you out. Or stay at home."

    I love this. Whatever this thing is, it either speaks to you or it doesn't. What I really like about this line is that it's a voice AND a choice. Like this thing decides to speak to you or not.

    "It's not the beast. It's not the sheets.
    So soft and warm. All over me.
    But it's the touch you need so much
    To move around on this green earth."

    I think this is where the song really starts to make sense. This seems like a reference to physical love. With the line about the sheets, I read 'the beast' as being desire or lust (or really any physical vice), and how it's not the physical joy of something that drives us. It's the touch - the connection to another person - that's so vital to bringing fulfillment and meaning to our lives. When you really understand what that means, you don't need money or drugs or anything else to make your life meaningful.

    I think the second part of the song is about that connection in its different forms. Some people find it in religion. Some find it in the beauty of nature. (I'm guessing the "red Patoka Sea" reference is a reference to Patoka Lake in southern Indiana, which makes sense with MMJ being from Kentucky. Someone mentioned maybe Jim had a profound moment at the lake, which would make sense.) Some people find it through contemplating the wonders of the universe. Some find it through an intimate connection with someone else. (All of us probably find it in all of these and more, to varying degrees.) But as long as our hearts are beating, we're all capable of finding that connection in something, and this connection is the Steam Engine. It's an ethereal, but powerful, driving force.

    As the comments show, we all have our own personal steam engines. But I think they're really all the same...a connection. I think this connection is true, genuine love. You love something - be it people or places or things or feelings or experiences or whatever it is - because something about it makes you feel deeply connected to it. It transcends just a physical feeling. You feel it in your soul. You feel it throughout your being. It makes you catch your breath and it can bring a smile or a laugh or a cry out of you that you can't control. It's the most beautiful and simple thing you can experience. Once you've felt it, you want to feel it again and as much as possible. For me personally, I feel it when I think about my tiny nothingness of an existence in a universe that I can't comprehend, and I feel it when I'm sitting around the fire with my friends. I feel it when I'm tickling my nephew and when I'm petting my dog. I feel it when I'm the only car I can see on a long stretch of road, and I feel it when I listen to great music, like this song.
    BCKnighton January 19, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentif you're not moved by the end of this song... well... you must be a robot.
    JohnnyMormanon November 23, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgreat song
    sean7711on August 18, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenta wonderful song tying natural beauty and the best of the relationships in our lives. always makes me tear up
    articulateson September 16, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love these guys and most everything they do, but this... is so special. Just a grand, romantic love poem.
    PhiloMathon September 22, 2006   Link

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