Upon the album's release, In the City received all-round positive reviews. Phil McNeil from the NME said Weller's songwriting "captures that entire teen frustration vibe with the melodic grace and dynamic aplomb of early Kinks and Who". Brian Harrigan of Melody Maker was equally impressed, proclaiming that "Weller composed songs are anything but an embarrassment, he has a deft touch that places his material on a much higher plateau". In the Record Mirror, Barry Cain wrote, "Armed and extremely dangerous The Jam stalk the decrepit grooves. If you don't like them, hard luck they're gonna be around for a long time. It's been a long time since albums actually reflected pre-20 delusions and this one does".