Nate Cavalieri of AllMusic said about the record overall, "By fusing the punk and retro-pop elements of his musical history with a noisy affection for '60s blues-rock formulas, The Tyranny of Distance showcases some of Leo's best songwriting to date. Laden with falsetto hooks and overtly romantic observations of the world, he is able to control combinations of aggression and sentiment and focus them into highly melodic expressions of pure emotion."Pitchfork writer Chip Chanko praised the musicianship of backing band the Pharmacists and Leo's songwriting and guitar work, saying that "Ted Leo's latest offers ample hooks, a uniquely expressive voice, and a perfect single that, in a just universe, would be all over the radio. I wanted to tell the world of the album's riches! Riches of song!"
In 2009, Pitchfork placed The Tyranny of Distance at number 120 on their list of the Top 200 Albums of the 2000s. Pitchfork writer Jason Crock said, "Formed in between Pharmacists lineups and aided by numerous friends in the studio, Tyranny of Distance sounds cobbled together by the pieces of a lifetime's listening while still remarkably cohesive and whole."