What does Knives Out mean?

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Radiohead: Knives Out Meaning


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Song Released: 2001

Knives Out Lyrics

I want you to know
He's not coming back
Look into my eyes
I'm not coming back

So knives out
Catch the mouse
Don't look down
Shove it in your mouth

If you'd been a dog
They would've drowned you at birth

Look into my eyes
It's the...

  1. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 25th report

    I think the video clip is very important to better understand the song.

    I think the train and television represent the past and what it meant to the protagonist.
    In the first clip he and his girlfriend are sitting pleasantly together while the train is moving through a green and peaceful countryside environment. They're holding hands and showing affection while they make photos of eachother to preseve this memory.

    The camera moves, we see these two lovers as twin elephants, trunks enmeshed. Almost mirrored individuals.

    The protagonist is moving on the floor, on a bed, free to move around. It seems to imply he is a visitor, there not for himself but for someone else. Behind him we see two drawings of innocent animals with the photo of his girl. A fish, which may represent a free-spirited nature, and a deer, which may represent innocence.
    The elephants, fish and deer - they're just depictions. representations.

    The girl then is lying on an operation table (akin to a child's game I know in my country as 'dokter bibber').
    Maybe this implies its to her, ultimately, all just a game.
    More and more people come in the room. She's becoming the complete and utter center of attention, while the boy is worried and left to his own devices. Medical props are put on the bed, and the protagonist is holding hands, letter the girl bite into his hands in response to her pain. He is hurt because she is hurting.

    More and more people come in, to focus on the girl. To care for her, do household chores (bringing new towels et al)

    The camera moves back to the television. We see the protagonist with a very big heart that he opens to the girl, putting the picture he took from the girl in the earlier shot in his heart. The girl almost childlike gives him a big intimate kiss, but he pushes her away gently, gently hits her, and she hits him back just as gently. The train's surroundings have become urban with a hint of a reddish mountain-like background behind it. Here I think we see the first glimmer of what's really happening. Some more urban environments and regular mountains follow.

    We see the protagonist with his feet encased in what appears to be ovens. He can't go away any longer.
    Behind him, and only in this shot, we see a child. Maybe this child is the reason why he is so imprisoned.
    He is in actual significant pain, beating his head repeatedly at his pillow.
    As he introspects, looks under below his covers, he sees how his very feet have been replaced with oven-baked chicken, and the woman he sees just cheer at the thought of eating him, having their knives out in anticipation of the feast. The protagonist looks in shock.

    We see a last shot of the child, but quickly the camera moves back to the girl, with more and more people surrounding her. She's the center of the chaos. No longer do we see anything medical that can help with her game-like condition. The only thing placed on the table are trays of food. More and more it becomes apparent that it's a game at the protagonist's expense. It becomes a utter chaos, the child is no longer in the picture. Everybody tries to help, but it really doesn't in any way change the condition of the girl.

    The camera moves back to the train, we see how the wagons are filled with body parts. It is presumed these are all cut off from the protagonist.
    In the train itself, we see how the girl lashes at the protagonist with - oh so poetically - a knife, while he tries to hammer sense into her. we see an urban environment as background in this shot, with mountain background. When the girl stop attacking, the protagonist stops as well, and instantly opens the box with a ring in it. (He still has that earlier picture of her in his heart). At this moment the background changes from urban to mountainous... to a gruesome feast of ribs and bloodied body parts. By this time its clear that this was the protagonist's.
    The girl inspects the ring, looking at it from all sides, and directly afterwards.. feels the debilitating hurt inside, apparently caused by this ultimate act of love from the protagonist.
    The protagonist is eager to help, worried for her, at this time.

    The tape is rewound, the protagonist and girl in the train reflect on their part behavior, almost in shock at first, but when we come to the earliest moments of their interactions (the lovebombing phase) the main character is the first to break a smile to the girl. And she immediately mirrors him with her cat-like smile.

    The camera moves back to the protagonists's bed, to reveal it is empty. Only thing left is the ring. He's there no longer.

    The camera moves on, the operating table is no longer there. The girl is out of the picture.
    All that's left is the protagonist. Completely eaten up. Only thing left is his big heart, him playing the guitar. The photo of the girl becomes removed from his heart.

    At the end shot, you see the protagonist, no longer as a strong man. He is transformed into a little mouse, a shadow of his former self, while going over the backgrounds of the train over and over and over again. At this point "him and the girl" are out of the picture.

    Unfortunately, this all fits perfectly with a very specific cluster-B personality disorder that features all the traits this girl displays in the clip, one where:
    - there is extreme displayed affection in early phases of the relationship
    - abandonment is retalliated upon.
    - the afflicted is the center of cycles of chaos.
    - many people try to help, ultimately play into the game
    - the partner/significant other(/favorite person?) is drained, eaten up, stripped from all humanity. Broken into pieces and made to serve.
    - actual true acts of love drive the afflicted to abandon/push away/discard the other.

  2. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 24th 2012 report

    I think it's about a breakup, when you really can't help but hate someone. Even though you are trying to appear nice, inside you hate them. So you might as well just get that hate out, figuatively, the relationship is over so just destroy what's left of it and don't pretend that you're OK.

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