I’ve never felt more conflicted than I did when Gerard Way first announced Hesitant Alien in May of 2014. I was dying for the chance to hear him sing again and immensely proud that he was exploring music in ways he wasn’t able to before, but at the same time, the fact that he was releasing solo music made it clear that My Chemical Romance would never create together again. The same feeling overcame me upon my first listen to former MCR guitarist Ray Toro’s debut album.
Remember the Laughter comes three-and-a-half years after MCR’s split, with little fanfare; Toro has hidden almost completely out of the public sphere for the entire period. The work lies somewhere on the softer, sweeter end of the musical spectrum, and is especially impressive considering that Toro sings and plays instruments for almost everything on the album.
“Requiem” starts out tenderly, with steady plucked notes that hover as the piece unfolds, gradually transforming into a nostalgic look back at good things passed. Toro’s voice is especially soft in the beginning, when he sings “You can run away / From all the things that hurt you in the past / And you can hide away / Or face the truth and live your life at last”
The album is extremely diverse from song to song. “We Save” is heavily inspired by the blues, with prominent, strutting bass, short yet expressive lyrical lines and dexterous guitar. As he sings “Gunshot, black like a stain / It don’t wash out these veins,” Toro’s voice possesses a swelling attitude that’s never really come to light before.
Remember The Laughter has several short instrumental numbers interspersed within the greater album, each of which act as a unique introduction to the songs that follow. The transitions between the instrumental pieces and subsequent songs are so fluid that I didn’t even realize the two were separate tracks until I had a closer look at the album list. “Wedding Day,” “Ascent,” “Father’s Day” and “Eruption” all contain audio recordings that conjure up very specific images when played in conjunction with their counterparts.
The combination that struck me the most was “Eruption” and “Hope for the World.” Police sirens, gunshots and frantic screaming are overlaid with the voices of an emergency operator and a news broadcaster, who are both talking about the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Toro’s voice breaks across the chaos suddenly as he sings “Turn off the sound of war and hate / Honor the cries for a world that decides on love, not race.” The contrast between the two is especially striking in light of recent events.
“Take the World” is another positive, encouraging piece that comes just at the right time. Toro is passionate but not overbearing as he sings “Let’s get ready / To fight for what is ours / We can take the world / And make it our own.” Faster paced instrumentals and thrumming bass lend the piece vague whispers from Toro’s rock past.
Remember the Laughter is a testament to Toro’s bountiful artistic ability, proof of not only his masterful guitar talent but also a reaffirmation of his vocal prowess.