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Tricks or Treats: Radiohead – “Knives Out”

on October 07, 2010, 3:36pm

Once again, we’ve arrived at October, which, as many know, is a special month. The leaves change color, Halloween crawls over everyone’s thoughts, and the weather gulfs you up with its dark and gloomy atmosphere. What better way to celebrate the creepiest month of the year with an ongoing feature on some of our favorite spooky, eerie, scary and/or Halloween-themed songs. Yep, it’s back, folks: Tricks or Treats!

This year’s season starts with, of course, Radiohead. Ever since it popped up on the band’s 2001 album, Amensiac, “Knives Out” has remained one of the creepiest songs the band’s arranged. The dreary guitar lines, Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals, and that wandering bassline paint this quasi-apocalyptic, sonic landscape that while inviting turns rather horrific. It’s terrifying in the sense that you’re pulled in by its melody, only to be left feeling isolated altogether. Musically, it all makes sense. The drifting guitar parts nearly parallel one’s trail of thoughts – a downward spiral, if you will – while Phil Selway’s driving percussion keeps you from turning back. Lyrically, it’s just as eerie. When Yorke wails, “If you’d been a dog, they would have drowned you at birth,” your hairs stretch out. Moody, cringe-worthy, and yet downright absorbing.

So, what does it all mean? According to Yorke, the song revolves around “cannibalism”, though he’s also stated, “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.” Neither situation necessarily ends well.

Given that it was a single, and a successful one at that, the band shot a video for “Knives Out”. Directed by Michel Gondry, the clip captures the essential spirit of the song by working through one scenario after the next, all focusing on Yorke’s plight of losing his now bedridden lover. The inclusion of the train, in particular, fiddles around with that feeling of being whisked away to an unknown place, all the while wondering whether it’s truly reality. Spooky or not, it’s a beautiful video, and the song admittedly retains an elegant quality to it, as well. However, 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.

Ready or not, prepare to let your mind run loose…

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