Knives Out

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"Knives Out"
Single by Radiohead
from the album Amnesiac
Released 5 August 2001
Format CD, 12"
Recorded 1999–2000
Genre Experimental rock
Length 4:17
Label Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US), Toshiba-EMI (Japan)
Writer(s) Radiohead
Producer(s) Nigel Godrich, Radiohead
Radiohead singles chronology
"I Might Be Wrong"
(2001)
"Knives Out"
(2001)
"There There"
(2003)
Amnesiac track listing

"Knives Out" is a song by English rock band Radiohead. The composition features electric and acoustic guitars, complemented by singer Thom Yorke's vocals. It appears on Radiohead's 2001 album Amnesiac, recorded during the same sessions as the previous album Kid A. It was also released as the second Amnesiac single, receiving more radio airplay than the band's other songs of the period. The song reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart.[1] It also topped the Canadian Singles Chart for 4 weeks.

Recording history[edit]

The song was developed during the 18-month Kid A and Amnesiac sessions, and is known for having taken 373 days to record.[2] According to Yorke, "We just lost our nerve. It was so straight-ahead. We thought, 'We've gotta put that in the bin, it's too straight.' We couldn't possibly do anything that straight until we'd gone and been completely arse about face with everything else, in order to feel good about doing something straight like that. It took 373 days to be arse-about-face enough to realise it was alright the way it was." Although "Knives Out" is not similar to Radiohead's earlier rock style as featured on The Bends (1995), it is usually noted as one of the most traditional guitar pop songs the band has done since 2000.

When guitarist Ed O'Brien played "Knives Out" to Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Marr was touched when told that the track was heavily influenced by his former group. The tune's chord progression is also very similar to the one heard in the first part of Radiohead's 1997 single "Paranoid Android." "Knives Out" was later covered by The Flaming Lips, on their 2003 EP, Fight Test EP. The song was also covered by classical pianist Christopher O'Riley on his album True Love Waits, and by jazz pianist/bandleader Brad Mehldau on his album, Day is Done (2006).

Structure[edit]

Yorke has usually described the song as being about "cannibalism". In one interview he said: "It's partly the idea of the businessman walking out on his wife and kids and never coming back. It's also the thousand yard stare when you look at someone close to you and you know they're gonna die. It's like a shadow over them, or the way they look straight through you. The shine goes out of their eyes."

B-sides[edit]

Part one of the single contains the b-side song "Cuttooth", with piano and bass working collectively and fluently, and a few samples running in and out throughout the song. The track is 5 minutes and 24 seconds long, though early versions were described as being much longer. "Cuttooth" is notable for having been mentioned 12 times in Ed O'Brien's online diary of the studio process for recording Kid A and Amnesiac, leading fans to expect it as a centrepiece of the band's new material, though the song would not make the cut on either record. Ed stated they wanted this track to sound like German Krautrock group Neu!. Some of the lyrics of "Cuttooth" ("I don't know why I feel so tongue tied / I don't know why I feel so skinned alive") were later used in the Radiohead song "Myxomatosis," appearing on the band's 2003 album Hail to the Thief. "Cuttooth," like its fellow b-sides "Talk Show Host" and "The Amazing Sounds of Orgy", has since gained unexpected popularity among the fandom.

The "full length" version of "Life in a Glasshouse" found on the single is derived from the same performance as the version found on Amnesiac, but differs in that it lacks the opening electronic effect, and features slightly more soloing by jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton and other members of his band before Yorke begins singing.

Part two of the single contains the original studio-recorded version of "Fog," an ambient and melodic song, mainly bass-driven, and featuring some creative use of tambourine. This version of the song is 4 minutes 5 seconds long and differs from Thom Yorke's solo piano version sometimes played live. That brief live piano version was itself released as a b-side two years later, during the band's Hail to the Thief era, at which point it was nicknamed "Fog (again)." The song had also been known as "Alligators in New York Sewers" since its live debut in Israel in 2000. Only the solo piano version has ever been played live, and Yorke professes to be dissatisfied with the recording found on the "Knives Out" single. Also in the second part of the single's release is "Worrywort", a slow and dreamy electronic song again featuring unique percussion effects or beat-boxing, which is 4 minutes 37 seconds long.

Charts[edit]

Chart (2001) Peak
position
Canada (Nielsen SoundScan) 1
UK Singles Chart 13
Italian Singles Chart 17
Irish Singles Chart 25
French Singles Chart 46
Dutch Top 100 63

Track listing[edit]

  • All tracks written by Radiohead.

Music video[edit]

A promotional video was directed by Michel Gondry. It features Thom Yorke in a hospital by the bedside of a woman, played by Emma de Caunes, who appears to be his partner in the video. The whole video was shot in one take, quite remarkable considering the scene changes required. Attempts to interpret the surreal imagery and fit it with the song lyrics were dashed when Gondry eventually revealed that the video was autobiographical. Some may find thematic parallels with Gondry's later film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The "Knives Out" video was not included in Gondry's compilation DVD The Work of Director Michel Gondry, but was later included on its follow-up, Michel Gondry 2: More Videos (Before and After DVD 1)

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"There You'll Be" by Faith Hill
Canadian number-one single
31 August 2001 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"There You'll Be" by Faith Hill