Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Song Highlight: The Mountain Goats - Autoclave


Last month, I wrote about John Darnielle of the folk rock band the Mountain Goats. Now a full month later, I am still listening to his music on a regular rotation, so I want to talk about another of his songs. He is an excellent lyricist, often coming up with clever analogies to help sell his stories. This is on display in the song “Autoclave” from Heretic Pride, where he describes his heart as an autoclave. For those unaware, an autoclave is a device that uses pressurized steam to sterilize glassware and surgical implements for medical and scientific purposes. 

“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.”

Darnielle is describing his love and affection as something that destroys anything it comes into contact with, much like an autoclave will devastate any bacterial strain. I find it a very unique way of approaching a love song, and one devoid of the platitudes of the common love song. It actually has something to say, rather than just being a throw away track to fill out an album.

My favorite version of the song is a live recording of Darnielle playing to a handful of people on an acoustic guitar. He really puts his all into the song, adding to it a real sense of urgency that makes the song shine ever brighter. I always gravitate towards musicians that are earnest, and Darneille radiates earnestness in the live recording.

1 comment:

  1. "My heart loves to the point of sterilization" to paraphrase lol. Oxymoronic, right? I think we often think of love as nurturing, verdant, promoting growth, and here we have someone who's love wipes away all life? I wonder if he's trying to say that his love in essence burns away all of its own impurities each time he directs it. Maybe more of a message of the purity of the love instead of the pulverizing power of his love?