Knives Out, Newcomers Out

There must have come a time for Radiohead when they knew they could literally go anywhere with their music and know that they wouldn’t, as many artists tend to, come across as pretentious… at least not to their cult-like following. Of course, the less hardcore Radiohead fans, and most of the uninitiated masses were confused to say the least. They knew this was coming; OK Computer had hinted at the impending experimentation of Kid A and Amnesiac with more adventurous structures (Paranoid Android), the use of non-standard time signatures and tracks such as ‘Fitter, Happier’. Knives Out is music as art, to say the least.

Knives Out is taken from the album Amnesiac and seems to be one of those Radiohead songs that slowly washes right over you, leaving little more than a vague impression of itself in your mind. This really isn’t a song you’ll find yourself singing in the shower or anywhere else.

I say ‘song’; I prefer to consider Knives Out, like many Radiohead offerings from Kid A onwards, as a ‘piece of music’.

The song (piece) starts. There’s no real introduction section; the song simply starts. The percussion is there, in standard 4/4 time, the guitar plays a lazy, chorused melody which fills the entire piece with its variations. Almost as a reminder of The Bends and OK Computer, an acoustic guitar is strumming just at the edge of hearing. The bass flows underneath it all, creating an ethereal dreamscape that gently permeates your mind with its subtle dissonance. Thom Yorke’s melismatic vocals are more an instrumental force than a voice. There are really only lyrics because there has to be. He sings in a vague and drawn out fashion, aided by an echo effect, which serves its purpose to contrast with the higher pitched and faster guitar melody. It is difficult to decide which melody the band considered the primary melody when they wrote this piece. Instrumentally, there is too much going on to effectively summarize; you cannot describe a Van Gogh landscape in one short paragraph, neither can you describe a Radiohead soundscape in one short paragraph.

Appreciating Knives Out almost definitely requires an understanding of Radiohead. I would not recommend this to a casual fan, or someone who liked ‘Creep’ but hasn’t heard a lot else. At five and a half minutes in length, Knives Out is a lot of the same. To each individual, this holds a different meaning; I know many people who could not endure this, I however (and the other Radiohead cultists) don’t hear this as an endurance test. Radiohead is something that I think one must first inflict upon oneself before they understand or appreciate it properly. This single will not be instantly liked by anyone not already of a die-hard Radiohead fan nature.