"Cease" as written by and Greg Graffin....
Blacktop pavement cover me
Like a chemical reaction or a steam roller
Spreading randomly

There's a distant and a low frequency
It tickles my ear, it rumbles under my feet
And it shakes the leaves off of every tree (violently)
What pretension! Everlasting peace
Everything must cease

Institution on the Hill
Like a beacon in the mind of an ancestor
To ignite a people's will

There's a shadowed stain on the west facade
It has spread like decay to enshroud the fraud
And the descendants find oh so odd
(oh so odd)
What pretension! Everlasting peace
Everything must cease

Grave memorial hewn white stone
Like the comforting caress of a mother
Or a friend you've always known

It evokes such pain and significance
What was once, is reduced to rememberence
And the generations pass without recompense
What pretension! Everlasting peace
Everything must cease


Lyrics submitted by cprompt, edited by Adoniran

"Cease" as written by Greg Graffin

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Cease song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI feel like the previous interpretations concerning the the first verse is correct. The interpretations that were given for the second and third verses were, I feel, too vague. Of course, when it comes to lyrical interpretation one can only speculate.

    The second verse I feel is referring to the United States Government. "The institution on the Hill" is Capitol Hill which is supposed to be the mecca of democracy; a beacon of freedom that burns in the "New World." Of course, it is not. What the "shadowed stain" is, I don't know, but whatever it is he is referring to is being used to "enshroud the fraud"; the corruption or crimes that are occurring in high places. The "descendents"[us] find it "oh so odd" when the same old tale of the abuse of power is uncovered. What I think Greg is trying to say here is that the "institution on the Hill" has been corrupt and fraudulent since its conception and a rich history of its fraudulence has been known all this time. Despite this, the "descendents" still seemed surprised when news breaks that the government is involved in somthing that the public decrees as foul. Example: The current war in Iraq. I dont think it would have occurred if the general populace understood the workings of the American government concerning foreign policy. Yet everybody fell for the "Saddam's gonna blow us all to hell if we dont go in there and kill him first" line. The freest population in human history is also the stupidest (generally speaking). One has the freedom to be stupid and ignorant. "What pretension!"

    Third verse:

    "grave memorial hewn white stone like the comforting caress of a mother or a friend you've always known"

    Here Greg is being sarcastic, I feel.
    What is so "comforting" about a statue or a memorial? They're made out of "hewn white stone", not something warm like a "caress of a mother." Yet this is one manner in which we remember/record our history: the erecting of statues/memorials, but since they are made from stone they are cold and we cannot relate to them in a warm and humanistic manner. For example, the Vietnam memorial in D.C. It's just a wall with a bunch of names on it. How are we supposed to feel the "pain and significance" of those remembered on this wall that actually experienced it? If we truly felt the "pain and significance" then maybe the invasion of Iraq would not have occurred. Of course we cannot feel this through "grave memorials" or "hewn white stone" so instead our history gets "reduced to remembrance" and the "generations pass without recompense". We lose the clear and holistic understanding of our history. We pass without being afforded the lessons that could be learned from days past. "What pretension!"

    Overall, I think Greg is trying to paint of portrait of absurdity in this song. How do we prohibit the absurdity from "spreading randomly"? The answer is in the title.
    MrPryMinistaon June 07, 2005   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningThis is straight from Greg's mouth, from the Q&A session at the reception for his lifetime achievement award from the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy in 2008.(- marks are where he interrupted a thought with another one)

    Questioner: Tonight you played Cease ... I just wanted to have some insight into that song. What personal experiences helped inspire the lyrics?

    Greg: It wasn't an inspiration, really. ... I started writing the first verse- The first verse talks about blacktop spreading endlessly, like a chemical reaction. And that was because, it's really, umm, boring, that I'm going to reveal this to you. But that's just because they were cutting down a lot of trees in our neighborhood and expanding this housing development and we have this beautiful pristine forest in the back of our property that is labeled for destruction. At the time that title came out, they decided to expand the neighborhood. And that's what got me- so the first verse talks about destruction and the end of eco systems basically. And then I thought, 'Let's build on this, what are other things that cease?' And the second verse is about social movements that have come and gone. And then the third verse is about family and interpersonal relationships, and it just so happens that was at a time when I was getting a divorce.
    Dan Da Manon February 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHere is how I see it, verse by verse.

    “Blacktop pavement cover me
    Like a chemical reaction or a steam roller
    Spreading randomly
    There's a distant buzz and low frequency
    It tickles my ear, it rumbles under my feet
    And it shakes the leaves off of every tree
    (Violently)”

    This verse is from nature’s perspective of the destruction of nature.

    “Institution on the Hill
    Like a beacon in the mind of an ancestor
    To ignite a people's will
    There's a shadowed stain on the west facade
    It has spread like decay to enshroud the fraud
    And the descendents find it oh so odd
    (Oh so odd)”

    This is about the fleeting status of institutions, countries, empires, religions and maybe mankind itself.

    “Grave memorial hewn white stone
    Like the comforting caress of a mother
    Or a friend you've always known
    It evokes such pain and significance
    What was once is reduced to remembrance
    And the generations pass without recompense”

    This takes place in the future after mankind has lost its place as top dog on this planet.

    “What pretension! Everlasting peace.
    Everything must cease.”

    The chorus and the song in generally basically mean: “Nothing lasts forever”
    Sorrynametakenon May 06, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe third verse is about death in general. Hewn white stone refers to a headstone to a grave. It can be comforting and farmilliar or it can be something to fear. Life ends no matter how you feel about death.
    Color Philosophyon December 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song has to take the cake for the most depressing song ever made... Well maybe its in a three way tie, "Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead, and "Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor" by the Eels are also very depressing. I love all three of those songs however for very different reasons. A lot of Bad Religions Lyrics I can really relate to, and thats why this song is so depressing "What pretension! Everlasting peace. Everything must cease." Thats exactly how I think, about the afterlife. Maybe it isn't so depressing, hell I wouldn't want everlasting peace that would be boring. "Blacktop pavement cover me
    Like a chemical reaction or a steam roller
    Spreading randomly" So goddamn depressing!
    onecommenton April 17, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the interpretations of the three verses, but I disagree with what "What pretension! Everlasting peace. Everything must cease" means. I feel that instead of saying that everything will end, it refers to everything needing to end. We can't have our "everlasting peace" until all of this (the three verses) "cease".
    maxbenon June 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMrPryMinista, nice post. Even if that's not what I thought when I tried to interpret the lyrics myself, I'm going to go with you on this one, as it makes a lot of sense to me. Also, the pretentiousness of humankind in general seems to be the resonating theme. Like an adult telling a child that he is not invincible, we as a race often suffer the same mindset.
    jomihaon July 05, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI really feel like it should say:

    "What pretension, everlasting peace!" as if to indignantly exclaim that humans seek an everlasting peace when it goes against both our nature and nature to begin with.

    For an everlasting peace to exist, everything in the world would have to cease.

    It's like a megalomaniacal comic book villain. To attain everlasting peace, they decide to destroy the world.
    Arukanon July 03, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI must agree with MrPryMinista about the second verse, it is surely about our government. "Institution on the Hill" is a play on John Winthrop's famous quote "City On The Hill" from one of his sermons in the early 1600's depicting the early Puritan colonies as a model for the rest of the world. Greg of course is referring to our country as a bunch of corrupt institutions, and MrPry really nailed it about us, the descendants, still finding it so odd when we find out that we're not the model country that we're made up to be.
    :]
    supitsbranon December 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentahh I get it. the forest will have to cease to be cut down to make room for newer noveltys..

    and he's saying how he feels that pertains to everything he see's. Wel all be cut down one way or another
    to make room for something else to build off of.

    and eventually everything today will be overtaken. hence - cease.

    and its gone
    pinkfadeon May 20, 2009   Link

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