Terry Hall is most engaging when he is miserable. Hall, formerly of the Specials and Fun Boy Three, began delving into his shattered heart with the Colourfield in the mid-'80s. On his second solo album, Laugh, Hall is again weeping in his ale despite the cheerful appellation. On the surface, this album is distilled sunshine: The blanket of tastefully strummed acoustic guitars of "Love to See You," the crystalline jangle and sweet harmonies of "Sonny and His Sister," and the soaring chorus of "Take It Forever" seduce the listener into singing along to Hall's lyrics without realizing how tormented they are. Like Morrissey and Robert Smith of the Cure, Hall can sweep his angst underneath toe-tapping hooks. The shimmering guitar pop of "Summer Follows Spring" sounds as if it were made for a Sunday afternoon stroll, but it's a booby trap; the track is actually about his lover having an affair. "Last night you slept with someone else," Hall plaintively sings, while ex-Smiths member Craig Gannon paints fluffy white clouds with his six-string. While Hall mined the '60s with the Colourfield, his affection for '70s AM radio fodder is proudly displayed on Laugh. The songs are straightforward and immaculately produced, lacking any quirks or rough edges. If Hall didn't have such poetic and biting lyrics, this could be described as an easy listening record. Nevertheless, his mournful voice merges beautifully with the soft rock of his band. On "Ballad of a Landlord," Hall's whispery tone is matched by subtle strings; the music slowly builds volume and tempo with the rising emotion in Hall's vocals and lyrics. When he exclaims, "So now the place lies in ruin/the way you lied and ruined me," the guitars suddenly become louder, capturing the pain and resentment in his voice and words. Hall chooses to cover Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" at the album's end; however, beneath its bouncy, infectious beat, there are no barbed confessions. Then again, Hall didn't write it.
AllMusic Review by Michael Sutton