Following a 30-date tour, Bauhaus set out to Southern Studios in London to record their first album. As the band had a clear conception of what they wanted the record to sound like, they opted to produce it themselves. While most of the album was completed with the planned release date of September 1980, the group found it difficult to record a version of "Double Dare" as good as the one they performed on disc jockeyJohn Peel's BBC Radio 1 programme. Bauhaus applied to the BBC to use the Peel sessions version, but due to obstructions from the Musicians Union the process took over a month.
On October 19, 2009, 4AD/Beggars Banquet reissued the album as an Omnibus Edition, featuring the 24-bit remastered CD of the original 9-track album in a replica mini-LP sleeve (with corresponding inner sleeve featuring the lyrics), plus a 16-song bonus disc of singles, outtakes, alternate recordings and original versions. The set comes inside a semi-long box, coupled with a 48-page book that includes comments from band members, photos, complete lyrics, complete tour date information for 1979 and 1980 and an essay by Kevin Brooksbank on the formation and creation of the band, the singles and the album.
While In the Flat Field received positive reviews in fanzine publications, the album was "absolutely slated" by the British weekly music press, according to Bauhaus biographer Ian Shirley. The NME review described the album as "nine meaningless moans and flails bereft of even the most cursory contour of interest, a record which deserves all the damning adjectives usually leveled at grim-faced 'modernists'."Sounds' review was also negative: "No songs. Just tracks (ugh). Too priggish and conceited. Sluggish indulgence instead of hoped for goth-ness. Coldly catatonic." Despite the negative reviews, In the Flat Field topped the independent charts, and made the UK Albums Chart for one week, peaking at number 72.
In its retrospective review, AllMusic praised the album, writing "few debut albums ever arrived so nearly perfectly formed; that In the Flat Field practically single-handedly invented what remains for many as the stereotype of goth music—wracked, at times spindly vocals about despair and desolation of many kinds, sung over mysterious and moody music—demonstrates the sui generis power of both the band and its work".