Like its predecessor, Spirit of Eden, the album featured improvised instrumentation from a large ensemble of musicians, including as many as seven violists on occasion. The recording sessions have attained near-mythical status among underground music fans; Tape Op magazine ran an extensive article detailing the harrowing recording sessions, marked by Mark Hollis' perfectionist tendencies, and his use of candles and incense to set the mood.
Original bassist Paul Webb had left the band prior to recording.
Reviews of the album were generally good; many tended to emphasise the fact that it spanned several genres, with some noting a stylistic kinship with Miles Davis' contemplative In a Silent Way album. Like Spirit of Eden, the lyrical themes are often religious. The album is widely considered (along with Spirit of Eden) as one of the first records to be classed - arguably retroactively - as within the post-rock genre. Laughing Stock has consistently risen in critical opinion as a result of post-rock's rise to relative popularity during the late 90s.
Laughing Stock was rated the eleventh-best album of the 1990s by Pitchfork Media, describing the album as "...a record that makes its own environment and becomes more than the sum of its sounds. 'Entrancing' barely describes the effect.
The UK CD crossfades "After The Flood" into "Taphead"; the US CD does not.
There is a brief, untitled instrumental fragment preceding "Taphead" at the beginning of side 2 on the LP/cassette version. This is not present on CD, except for the US CD.