The return of Margaret Cho

Korean-American stand-up comedian Margaret Cho can now add another notch on her belt for a brazen, new conquest: making her very own music album.

Photo courtesy of Ken Phillips Publicity Group Inc

Collaborating with the likes of Fiona Apple, Andrew Bird, Patty Griffin and Ani DiFranco, the 41-year-old comic debuts a perky style and surprisingly pleasant voice in her upcoming album Cho Dependent, released today.

The release of the 13-track record will be followed by a national tour starting Aug. 26, which will include a stop in Los Angeles at the Wiltern Theatre in December. Each show promises a night of laughs, complete with Cho’s new stand-up routines and live performances of her brand new melodies.

Cho might be considered a rookie in the music industry, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t got a clue of what she’s doing. Rounding up some of the best in the business — all of whom she considers her musical heroes — Cho writes spicy and ironic lyrics that cover topics ranging from a bad case of head lice to awkward genitals to calling work stoned, accompanying them with catchy jams reminiscent of the ’60s.

Good comedy in one hand and good music in the other: Bring the two together and we’ve got ourselves an explosive revelation.

Needless to say, Cho Dependent newly realizes the performer as not only a musician but also a pioneer paving the way for a genre of stifled snorts and guitar riffs.

Always a music enthusiast, Cho admitted in interviews that Madonna played a big role in her picking up the guitar. She said she saw Madonna playing the instrument and thought, “Well, if that bitch can do it, so can I.”

That marked the beginning of an exciting journey into an unforeseen landscape.

The opening track, “Intervention,” which is a collaboration with Canadian indie-rock band Teagan and Sara, kicks off the album with a head-nod inducing beat. The overall song sounds like a typical Teagan and Sara song with guitar-heavy instrumentals and rock drumbeats. The lyrics, as written by Cho, defy the duo’s usually sentimental punch lines, however. A comedic story about a girl whose friends set up an intervention for her troubling meth addiction, the song is true-to-life on a different level.

One part of the song includes an animated exchange between a stuttering Sara and a messy Cho, who gets so worked up in denial that she pukes in Sara’s jack o’ lantern (with sound effects and everything). This song is the precedent for the rest of the album as the perfect triad of soundly tunes, overboard voice acting and belly-grabbing story lines.

Another notable track is “Hey Big Dog,” a collaboration with Apple, Griffin and Ben Lee. This is where Cho proves herself as not only a funny lyric composer but also one with vocal prowess. Singing with the legendary Apple, Cho’s own voice does not pale in comparison but proves itself worthy and melodic.

Cho takes a stab at dark comedy in “I’m Sorry” with Andrew Bird, which — set to a bouncy guitar arpeggio and Bird’s trademark whistling — has an unrepentant Cho “sincerely apologizing” to an ex-lover for setting his house on fire and shooting him in the face, among other things.

For the sentimental piano ballad, aptly titled “Eat Shit and Die” and featuring musician Grant-Lee Philips, Cho blogged on her website about the therapeutic effects of writing the song to get over a heartbreak.

“There’s nothing else you can do, but write a song,” she wrote. “The song is like a spell, cast over the heartbreak — banishing it forever.”

This goes to show that, while many people might quickly dismiss Cho’s album as just another attempt to be ironic and funny, there is actually more than what meets the eye.

Cho proves herself to be more than just a crasher in the music industry; rather, she is an up-and-coming musician who understands the importance of putting an honest heart into the process of making music.

After all, just because it’s funny doesn’t mean it’s not sincere.