Knives Out

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"Knives Out"
Radiohead knivesout.jpg
Single by Radiohead
from the album Amnesiac
Released5 August 2001
Recorded10 March 1999 – 17 March 2000[1]
Radiohead singles chronology
"I Might Be Wrong"
"Knives Out"
"There There"
Amnesiac track listing
11 tracks
  1. "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box"
  2. "Pyramid Song"
  3. "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors"
  4. "You and Whose Army?"
  5. "I Might Be Wrong"
  6. "Knives Out"
  7. "Morning Bell/Amnesiac"
  8. "Dollars and Cents"
  9. "Hunting Bears"
  10. "Like Spinning Plates"
  11. "Life in a Glasshouse"

"Knives Out" is a song by English rock band Radiohead. It is the second single released from Radiohead's fifth album, Amnesiac (2001), and features "chiming" guitars influenced by the British rock band the Smiths. It reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart number one on the Canadian Singles Chart.


According to Drowned in Sound, "Knives Out" is the most conventional song on Amnesiac.[3] It features "chiming"[3] and "drifting" guitar lines, "driving" percussion, a "wandering" bassline, "haunting" vocals and "eerie" lyrics.[4]

Singer Thom Yorke said the lyrics were 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."[4]


Radiohead recorded "Knives Out" between 1999 and 2000 during the sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac, recorded simultaneously.[5] It was first performed November 1999 as part of a webcast from Radiohead's studio.[6] The song was influenced by the British rock band the Smiths; before its release, guitarist Ed O'Brien played it for Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who said: "I was beyond flattered and quite speechless – which takes some doing. He explained to me that with that song they'd tried to take a snapshot of the way I'd done things in the Smiths – and I guess you can hear that in it."[5]

According to a studio diary kept by O'Brien, "Knives Out" took 373 days to complete, "a ridiculously long gestation period for any song". After it was completed in March 2000, O'Brien wrote:[7]

The song is probably the most straight-ahead thing that we've done in years... and that might explain why we took so long on it. I'm a real believer that bands as they become more successful often lose the ability to do straight-ahead stuff well... the need to embellish tracks with melodies and sounds becomes imperative. And often in doing so the song loses its essence, especially if it was written on acoustic guitar. But I think we've done all right on "Knives Out".

Music video[edit]

The "Knives Out" music video was directed by Michel Gondry. Gondry was going through a breakup at the time, and expressed his feelings in the video concept, which has Yorke grieving in a hospital room. According to Gondry, the collaboration did not go well: "I had one terrible experience with Radiohead. I showed [Yorke] a storyboard and every single detail: he was completely excited and happy for it – and then, it turned out, they all criticise me for being selfish and putting my own views on it and my own introspection ... It did not go smoothly, but if it went smoothly, it would be mediocre."[8]


"Knives Out" was the second Amnesiac single. It reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart[9] and topped the Canadian Singles Chart for 4 weeks.[citation needed]

"Knives Out" was covered by The Flaming Lips on their 2003 Fight Test EP. It was also covered by pianist Christopher O'Riley on his album True Love Waits, and by jazz pianist Brad Mehldau on his album Day is Done (2006).[citation needed]


David Merryweather of Drowned in Sound gave the "Knives Out" single 9 out of 10, praising Jonny Greenwood's "chiming guitar" for capturing the "romantic disappointment" and "wistful ache" of the Smiths.[3] Reviewing Amnesiac for Pitchfork, Ryan Schreiber felt the guitar line was too similar to Radiohead's 1997 song "Paranoid Android", writing: "Great melody. However, they've fucking used it before."[10] In 2010, Consequence of Sound praised "Knives Out" as one of Radiohead's "creepiest" songs: "it’s one of many tracks from the English quintet that tickles the bones rather than warms them. But that’s what makes Radiohead so unique."[4]


Chart (2001) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[11] 56
Canada (Nielsen SoundScan)[12] 1
France (SNEP)[13] 46
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 25
Italy (FIMI)[15] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[16] 63
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[17] 15
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[18] 13

Track listing[edit]

  • All tracks written by Radiohead.


  1. ^ "Ed's Diary Archive". Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  2. ^ Jones, Chris. "BBC – Music – Review of Radiohead – Amnesiac". Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  3. ^ a b c "Single Review: Radiohead – Knives Out". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  4. ^ a b c "Tricks or Treats: Radiohead – "Knives Out"". Consequence of Sound. 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  5. ^ a b Mojo. May 2004
  6. ^ Vanhorn, Teri (12 November 1999). "Radiohead debut song during webcast". MTV News. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  7. ^ O'Brien, Ed (22 July 1999). "Ed's Diary". Archived from the original on 13 April 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2007.
  8. ^ "Michel Gondry Hearts Himself Some Music Videos, Spike Jonze & Micheal Jackson; Hates Radiohead". The Playlist. 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  9. ^ "UK Top 40 Chart Archive". Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  10. ^ "Radiohead: Amnesiac Album Review | Pitchfork". Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  11. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  12. ^ "Radiohead Chart History (Canadian Digital Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  13. ^ " – Radiohead – Knives Out" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Knives Out". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  15. ^ " – Radiohead – Knives Out". Top Digital Download. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  16. ^ " – Radiohead – Knives Out" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 September 2018.

External links[edit]