Hand me your hand, let me look in your eyes
As my last chance to feel human begins to vaporize
Maybe it's the heat in here, maybe it's the pressure
You ought to head for the exits, the sooner the better

I am this great, unstable mass of blood and foam
And no one in her right mind would make my home her home
My heart's an autoclave
My heart's an autoclave

When I try and open up to you I get completely lost
Houses swallowed by the earth, windows thick with frost
And I reach deep down within, but the pathways twist and turn
And there's no light anywhere, and nothing left to burn

And I am this great, unstable mass of blood and foam
And no emotion that's worth having could call my heart its home
My heart's an autoclave
My heart's an autoclave

I dreamt that I was perched atop a throne of human skulls
On a cliff above the ocean, howling wind and shrieking seagulls
And the dream went on forever, one single static frame
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

And I am this great, unstable mass of blood and foam
And no one in her right mind would make her home my home
My heart's an autoclave
My heart's an autoclave

Lyrics submitted by mdon06, edited by Xamnam, etarletons, pineapplejelly

Autoclave song meanings
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  • +11
    General CommentI disagree on the song being about self-loathing or fear of opening up. This is the surface imagery, yes, but not what the song ultimately builds to.

    On the surface the speaker thinks he's destructive and toxic to life and relationships (no woman and no emotion stay with him and still be real) - on the other hand he conveys this in intensely selfaggrandizing imagery, "a great unstoppable mass" "a place where everybody knows your name" and equating his 'destructive' heart (i.e. his emotional intensity) not to toxins, but to something used to purify, an autoclave. The chaos of the second verse is what happens when he tries to share that self-image with others: they don't see him as the great unstoppable thing he thinks he is, and so he winds up lost and in chaos until he can purge the relationship ("nothing left to burn", "no emotion worth having") and be the pure thing he considers himself again.

    So, while on the surface it seems to be about self-loathing and loneliness, the undertone is that he is lonely because he feels so intense and so righteous at heart that no-one else can survive exposure to his true feelings (the autoclave). It's not about self-loathing: it's about a narsicistic personality justifying and protecting it's own grand self-image by alienating everything that threatens to expose it as just human (be it romantic partners or his own common sense).
    delayon July 03, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General Comment"This song is about how when people say to you that they understand what's going on with you... and you want to say to them, 'If you understood what was going on with me, then you wouldn't be at my house.'"
    PureSophiston March 08, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI believe it's a warning song to a potential mate about his inability to open up, and how he's sure he's only going to hurt her. His heart is an autoclave because it appears sterile to the one closest to him.
    ExoM7on April 08, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentjohn darnielle and jeffery lewis made a comic explaining each song on the new album, you can look at it here:

    Sunset Rubdownon March 09, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentautoclave: "a strong, heated container used for chemical reactions and other processes using high pressures and temperatures..."

    "Maybe it's the heat in here, maybe it's the pressure..." Love it.
    lilotelasserieon September 13, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhen I saw them in concert before Heretic Pride came out, they played this and John prefaced it by explaining pretty much what's on the press-kit cartoon: that he had read about some types of life that thrive in an autoclave. That context always gave this song a more hopeful message for me than I think is in the lyrics by themselves - the speaker's heart's an autoclave, but, while the lyrics don't make this clear, there are some things (bacteria, emotions) that would call his heart their home.

    Anyway, I love this song. I really identify with it.
    splintercaton July 14, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti have borderline personality disorder and this song is almost spot on what its like having it. failing at relationships because you dont think youre good enough and youre scared of impending abandonment. exploding at really small events and cycling between euphoric and major depressive mood swings. empty all the time. cant handle being alone and cant handle being with people. uncontrollable rage, JD touched it all. i think he did it on purpose but hes not going to tell people 'hey this song is about bpd
    mountain_goaton June 20, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't help but think about Cheers when he sings that one line.

    The last few seconds at the end make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
    Naolson February 20, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt isn't the bright mountain choir that does additional vocals on this track. The bright mountain choir adds vocals to new zion, how to embrace a swamp creature and marduk t-shirt men's room incident
    music1994on March 02, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is weird, so many posts and just 2 with info on the song
    i agree with splintercat, kinda
    an autoclave is a medical device used to sterilze equipment
    nothing is able to live inside an autoclave
    john (or whoever is singing) is saying that no one would want to reside in his heart
    somthing so vile can not have anything living in it
    i may be wrong, but the line "maybe its the heat in here, maybe its the pressure" could be about that feeling you have when you're in love, the way that you feel your heart building pressure
    its just a thought
    cabcar9on July 23, 2009   Link

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