"Knives Out" as written by and Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke....
I want you to know
He's not coming back
Look into my mouth
I'm not coming back

So knives out
Cut him up
Don't look down
Shove it in your mouth

If you'd been a dog
They would have drowned you at birth
Look into my mouth
It's the only way you'll know I'm telling the truth

So knives out
Cut him up
Squash his head
Put him in the pot

I want you to know
He's not coming back
His blood is frozen
Still there is no point letting it go to waste

So knives out
Catch the mouse
Squash his head
Put him in the pot

Lyrics submitted by shut, edited by xaml, SeaGreen

"Knives Out" as written by Edward John O'brien Colin Charles Greenwood

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Knives Out song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentI think it could be about social Darwinism, on a national scale. The plaintive way in which Thom sings it, as well as the forceful emotion that is given to the stronger person )or country) devouring the smaller, weaker one, suggests that the better off entity is preying on the less fortunate. Parts of the song such as "If you'd been a dog, they would have drowned you at birth" also reinforce this idea, since they allude to the "runt of the litter" being removed from the equation because it had less of a fighting chance, or as an elimination of competition. It doesn't matter how messy the situation is, whatever imperialistic predator this could be about is ready to drain them to sustain itself.
    NeonTheReaperon October 25, 2010   Link
  • +5
    General Comment
    Knives out is about people using each other to get what they want, and cannibalizing on people who are down.

    "Knives out, cook him up, squash his head, put him in the pot"
    "He's bloated and frozen still there's no point in letting him go to waste."

    Like the business owner who discovers that another local business has a problem with criminal activity because the owner doesn't serve cops and claims to the public "our business is crime-free! cops are always welcome here!".

    "Don't look down. Shove it in your mouth"

    On the same theme of social cannibalism, it also mentions people who know they must feed on the suffering of others, but do not like to think about it that way, such as the big business who poaches all of a smaller businesses clients just to stay afloat, destroying the small business in the process.

    "Look into my eyes. I'm not coming back."

    This song also touches on people abandoning others (presumably friends and families).
    Hazencruzon June 24, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI love this song nearly to death, then again, I love every Radiohead song nearly to death.

    I remember living in my old house, watching the video, waiting for my best friend to come to my house, she was walking, she never knocks, she just comes in.

    I have a big screen so you can see it perfectly from a distance, and I was alone watching Knives Out, that just came on MuchMusic.

    Just as the part where Thom Yorke is half mouse/half man, where his head is the microphone was on, she came in, looked at what I was watching and gave me the strangest look. Now, she always has to pick what we watch.

    Anyway the song is brilliant.
    xxidiotequeon March 19, 2003   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis song is about social darwinism. Essentially it describes the idea that once must kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.
    nightswimmeron May 29, 2007   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningThis reminds of the situation when my best friend was by my side a couple of weeks after my breakup. I asked "But what if he does come back one day?" and my friend said "It would be better if he doesn't." This felt so harsh and cruel, although I knew it was nothing but the bittersweet truth. Still it's hard for me to understand and deal with. And this is exactly what this song is about for me. Like my friend would sing it to me, trying to save me from my despair.
    "I want you to know
    He's not coming back
    He's bloated and frozen
    Look into my eyes
    It's the only way you know I'm telling the truth"
    fakingdreamson October 28, 2010   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningIt would seem there are reflections of a cold, dark and bitter past that has seeped into the British psyche and many British artists especially RadioHead and Thom Yorke seem to be in contact with this - “Knives Out” is a perfect illustration of this influence, it is a hollow tale either literal or figurative with chilling cannibalistic overtones - it speaks of a startling desperation allegorized in morbid starvation - be that of the mind, body, or soul. Thom Y. seems to wail of an intense scarring memory of fear and loneliness - a loss of pride and hope and a suppression of apathy and shame. The song suggests a dark image of flesh feasting and the loathness of spiritual starvation prevalent in modern culture - that love and hate are equal in some measure to mankind’s desire to consume at any cost- and is subject to abject degeneration down to the sub-human level. The song is a tale of caution, of the human emotion and pitfalls therein - it suggests that Thom Y. has his hand and his heart on its pulse.
    satyr42on April 20, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOh wait.... i come back to say one more thing. I think it might be about a retarded kid (no offence to anyone by saying "retarded") but i think the kid didn't know how to treat the pet rat and he killed it. I think the dad is just gonna leave the kid becuase hes tired of him. You know how they make little kids look u in the eye when u talk to them? well thats what hes doing. making sure he understands. Thats also why they say they wouldve drowned him at birth if he was a dog.
    l337MonkeyCrapon September 12, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI had no verse interpretation to offer because I was commenting merely because I did so on the other two songs as to the message behind "Knives Out", but upon thinking about the lyrics.

    The drowning dog is basically saying you are good for nothing, lame, worthless, you go through life in your own world without bothering to let anyone in, essentially, you are unable to bark, you are unable to show affection of any kind.

    The mouse is you, the you that is full of fear, and is controlled by that fear and your insecurities.

    Look into my eyes is referenced in two separate verses because it is something people affected by this fear of communication and connection (love) cannot do. And when they are able to make eye contact with someone they would like to engage, they are only doing it for self-satisfaction, justification that they are worth something but they end up letting the person down in the end by leading their wallpaper lives. (this is referenced in Cuttooth "build you up to pull you down..."). This is my take on the whole single anyway. I'm fairly sure this was what he was saying, at least it's what I head.
    skinnedaliveon August 27, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it is a song about a person that is like a cat. who never attatches itself to anyone but has many lovers and uses them to gain something whether its sex or security or whatever and is allowed to because its a cat, and is expected to and who falls in love with someone who is cold and narcisitic because they can give it what it wants, and in a desperate act that someone tries not to care about it, so that they wont have to be lonely anymore. and tries to change it so it will love them unconditionally.
    but it could be that i just saw the unbearible lightness of being, which is a good movie by the way.and they had a dog in that movie that they loved more perfectly than they did eachother.
    UnemployedDaysleepeon March 25, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBtw, there is quite solid proof that Albedo's interpretation is right:

    "If you'd been a dog
    They would have drowned you at birth"
    Vertigo22on June 03, 2004   Link

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