Radiohead–Cuttooth

Cuttooth, an Amnesiac era Knives Out b-side, seems like a painfully appropriate song in light of the events of the last few days.   Venting is nothing new to Radiohead, but the song is a strange mix of inescapable momentum and soaring catchiness.  It begins in media res, with a driving piano and then a scream of frustration.  And then it builds.  And builds.  “I don’t know why I fell so tongue-tied/I don’t know why I feel so skinned alive,” sings Yorke, working from soft-spokeness to a shouting release.  The whole song is claustrophobic.  Musically, it is steady and relentless, cleverly slipping into and out of slight syncopation and featuring some great timepiece-like work from Phil Selway.  Lyrically, it is violent and oppressive, featuring threats of crucifixion and images of military occupation.  But there is seeming light in the darkness.  “Run until your lungs are sore/until you cannot feel it anymore/run until your lungs are sore/until you find an open door,” Yorke commands.  While even running (possibly to join the Foreign Legion) seems hopeless, there is an unexpected sliver of light to wrap up the song.  “I’ll find another skin to wear,” he promises defiantly.    It’s a rise above moment that shows that maybe not all is lost.  The very type of moment we need right now.

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