Raymond Toro is a virtuoso. He knows what he’s doing. His first solo album, “Remember the Laughter” is proof of that. Writing, arranging, and playing nearly every single piece of music on this disc, the man proves his meddle as a solo artist with catchy vocal hooks, smart time changes, heartfelt lyrics, and passionate vocals. I don’t like it as much as I like the discs he worked on in the past with a band, “I brought You My Bullets, You Brought me Your Love”, “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge”, “The Black Parade”, “Conventional Weapons”(yes, I see it as a cohesive album all by itself), and “Danger Days”, as the primary writer and arranger of the music, but I’m still in love with it. The lyrics alone make it worth a listen, but there’s so much more to it than that.
“Remember the Laughter” is a concept album about a middle aged man finding a “memory box” and reflecting on moments of his life via the contents of said box. Simple as hell, way less bombastic and complicated than “The Black Parade”, but just as heartfelt and almost as effective.
A few tracks stand out to me, and they will be the main ones I write about in this review. The first, “Isn’t that Something”, is written from a straight up genius perspective when it comes to music. Good structure, a good balance of traditional music and electronic(just in the beginning really), and some of the most honest lyrics I have ever heard in a song. You can tell that the track is about Toro’s feelings after the MCR breakup of 2013, and it really pulls at your heart, especially if you’re a fan.
“Mama told me I should stand alone. Papa said your better on your own.”
While I do think My Chem was the greatest ensemble of creators in the history of music, I still think that Ray’s parents were right, at least in a way. He’s finally making the music he’s always wanted to make. Sure, there’s none of that magical teamwork that occurs when a band full of separate artists with separate musical tastes work together to create the sonic hybrid known as an album, but it really does show that this artist can stand on his own two feet creatively just fine. A lot more than fine, actually.
That being said, this record was A huge surprise to me. My favorite guitarist had always played like he was a hybrid of Brian May and Randy Rhoades – but with this album, he goes the pop route. It’s not “pop” like all that Beyonce shit you always hear, but it’s still catchy as hell. A very strange but very nice combination of modern pop music with 80s rock bands, which makes the disc play like a time capsule, and the record’s narrative lyrically fits well into that aspect of the album.
“Walking in Circles” is my new favorite love song. The lyrics in it are simple, as is a lot of the music, but the thing delivers. His vocal holds notes extremely well, and the entire song is laced with strings that really give the whole thing an epic scope. As far as the guitar is concerned, this one shows the listener that Ray isn’t interested in shredding and showing off like he did with My Chem. He just wants to make something emotive and powerful with his music, even if it’s simple. But, like I said, there are stringed instruments, so it’s kind of a mind fuck that he would make a song that sounds so simple and then add something really complex on top of it.
So far, the album has been pretty poppy. But with “We Save”, the music becomes straight up rock and roll, namely, blues rock. I can’t help but make a comparison to “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us in Prison”, chiefly because of the guitar style, but the song still doesn’t sound anything like that one or anything else in My Chem’s arsenal. It’s not heavy, but it’s not soft either-it’s just intelligent rock music that puts a smile on your face.
Things get more complex a couple of tracks later with, “The Great Beyond”. Orchestral instruments abound once again, but the real focus is the guitar and the vocals. Melodically, it’s one of the best songs of the album, especially with the soft bridge. I said before that Ray doesn’t really shred on this album – but scratch that, the solo on this song is excellent(I guess he does shred on this album, where the solos are concerned, but he does it sparingly). It’s soft but rockin’, smart, and gets stuck in your head just as much as the vocals do. There’s also a certain highly experimental sound employed throughout the verses that took me a while to get used to, but I love it now, even though I have no clue what it is. Something like scraping or clicking, I guess.
“Take the World” reminds me of “The World is Ugly” and “the Kids From Yesterday”, but it’s still Signature Ray Toro, not My Chemical Romance. I think it would have worked with Gerard Way singing it, but it actually wouldn’t have been as good. This is the album’s initial single for a reason – it shows with glory Toro’s competence as a songwriter and especially as a vocalist. I’ll admit I like Way’s voice better, but I think Ray’s voice is perfect for this song.
All the songs are great, but the next one that really stands out to me is “Requiem”. The vocals and lyrics of this record are all delightfully positive, and that infectious happiness shows the most through this track. It’s all about honoring the memories of those we have lost, living life to the fullest, and finding hope amidst the “madness of this world”
“You’ve got one life so make it right. If I had one more chance, I wouldn’t take it back.
Don’t die in vain, please light the flame.
And fill the sadness in your heart with memories of us.”
Just beautiful to the heart, man. Makes me wanna live my life to the fullest. And, at the end of the song, Toro goes full on African with the vocals and percussion. I’ve always loved tribal stuff. It’s just so emotional and real.
And the last song, title track “Remember the Laughter” is just as powerful and infectious as the rest of them. Great way to end an album, especially with Toro’s “La la la” refrain during the bridge.
I’ve been listening to this album for a couple weeks constantly, and it resonates with my emotions more than any of the solo efforts of My Chem’s other members. The main focus of the disc is family, and that’s something I desperately needed to focus on at this time. So, thanks Ray.
All in all, a cohesive, well constructed, and just damn good CD.
10 out of 10