Bend Sinister was the third and last Fall album to be produced by John Leckie. When recording began, the band was without a drummer, as Karl Burns was fired shortly before sessions began. Ex-member Paul Hanley stepped in at first before permanent replacement Simon Wolstencroft was found. However, Leckie and Mark E. Smith argued during the recording, with Smith complaining that "he'd always swamp everything, y'know, put the psychedelic sounds over it". Leckie, for his part, drew the line at Smith's insistence that some tracks be mastered from a standard audio cassette that Smith had been carrying around and listening to on a Walkman.
Julia Adamson, who engineered some of the recording sessions, would eventually join the Fall in 1995 as a keyboard/guitar player.
Bend Sinister was released in June 1986 by Beggars Banquet. It reached number 36 in the UK charts. It also became the first Fall album to be released on CD, with the addition of single "Living Too Late" and B-side "Auto-Tech Pilot".
In his retrospective review, Ned Raggett of AllMusic described it as a "distinctly down affair", while Trouser Press called it "a rather gloomy, dark-sounding record". Al Spicer, in The Rough Guide to Rock, called the album "not a great album by Fall standards".
Neither Smith nor Leckie speak highly of the album today. Nonetheless, the record contained the group's version of "Mr. Pharmacist", originally by US garage rock band The Other Half, which gave the Fall their first UK Top 75 entry and remains a regular feature of the group's live set.