"Knives Out" is a song by English alternative 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. It also topped the Canadian Singles Chart for 4 weeks.
The song was developed during the 18-month Kid A and Amnesiac sessions, and is known for having taken 373 days to record. 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 most recent album, Day is Done.
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."
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.