TCOS is the only Talk Talk album I didn't purchase the CD of, though I guess I'd be willing to. I have relistened to it a couple times--"Chameleon Day" and "Life's What You Make It" are the biggest highlights. It does sound more "80s" than the two that followed it for sure.
And the synth pop albums are perfectly good--there's an outside chance I might even take It's My Life over Laughing Stock (Spirit Of Eden remains the big ace.)
I honestly don't think Spirit Of Eden is a "difficult" listen at all--what it always sounded like to me was a stretched out, ambience-laced version of The Joshua Tree, albeit without the Edge doing pins and needles. Laughing Stock seems a far better choice for "first post-rock album," though God knows what that really is.