Portishead received critical acclaim up on its release. Spin praised the record and noted that the band created a "gothic", "deadly" and "trippy" atmosphere. Commenting the textures of the music, music journalist Barry Walters observed that the group got "darker, deeper and more disturbing" in comparison to their previous effort Dummy.
"Western Eyes" is listed as sampling "Hookers & Gin" by the "Sean Atkins Experience" in the album's liner notes. In reality, this band does not exist; the sample was created by the band like most of the others on the album.
^NME (Magazine) (9/27/97, p.57) – 8 (out of 10) – "...if DUMMY was smoky film noir material, this is a choking Hammer Horror ho-ho-free hoedown....wavering, painfully sensitive choruses, desperately distorted soundscapes and good old-fashioned tunes..."
^ abcWalters, Barry. Portishead - review. Spin (November 1997, p.142) – 9 (out of 10) – "...Like every brilliantly dismal act from Screamin' Jay Hawkins to the Wu-Tang Clan, Portishead tiptope across a ledge where utter seriousness is one false move away from tragic self-parody. They manage the high-wire act with brittle grace, bitter poise. And they sound as if they could break at any second..."