There are so many reasons why “Dirty Harry” shouldn’t work: It has a child’s choir, it’s lyrically very simplistic outside of the Bootie Brown rap, which itself has a political reference that was already dated by the time the song appeared (“So said the speaker/With the flight suit on/Maybe to him I’m just a pawn,” referencing George Bush’s Mission Accomplished speech from 2003). And yet… It’s kind of a great song. What happened?
It’s tempting to put it down the the production; Danger Mouse and Damon Albarn have definitely created a great backing for the vocals here, with the phased organ, funk guitars, horror movie strings and the wonderfully vacuum-ish swoop and dive as Bootie does his stuff (Listen to this version of the song without the rap to see what I mean; skip to the 2:10 mark:
It’s great, isn’t it?)
What’s fascinating to me is to hear the original demo for this song, which was released under an entirely different name (“I Need A Gun”) on Damon Albarn’s Democrazy album. It’s recognizable for the vocal hook, but nothing else:
Somewhere in the Gorillaz vaults, there are works-in-progress that show how this song went from that barebones demo to the final version; I’d love to hear them, and find out how the whole thing was built, piece by piece, with every new ingredient just seeming like a bad idea that somehow comes together.