Recording information: Beech House Studios; Menagerie Studios, Vancouver, B.C., Canada; New Monkey Studios; Stampede Origin Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Suite 775, Hollywood, CA; Warehouse Studios, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Photographers: Al Ridenour; Lyndset Byrnes; Carmen Rizzo.
Margaret Cho is hardly the first comedian who has developed a sudden urge to sing, but unlike a great many of them -- Eddie Murphy, Sandra Bernhard, Adam Sandler, the list goes on -- Cho's music suggests that she might have been able to get by as a pop singer if her career in comedy hadn't worked out. Cho has released several albums of her stand-up material, but Cho Dependent is her first long player devoted to music, and while these songs are clearly meant to generate laughs, as it happens Cho is a better singer than most would expect. Cho doesn't have a tremendous vocal range, but she know what to do with what she has, and can conjure the sound and style of other artists with skill. "Your Dick" suggests the throaty strength of Chrissie Hynde and "Baby, I'm With the Band" recalls Debbie Harry's salad days, while any number of auto-tuned pop belters have been fused into the voice on "Gimme Your Seed," "Eat Shit And Die" finds her making like a sultry jazz diva and "Lice" is sung in the voice of an earnest and passionate folkie. Songwriting doesn't come quite as easily to Cho as singing -- generating laugh lines while following rules of rhyme and meter isn't as simple as it might seem -- but when she's on, she's quite good, and "Enemies" and "Hey Big Dog" work well either as straightforward tunes or as jokes. And Cho certainly had good sense in inviting some talented friends to help her out -- Tegan & Sara, Brendan Benson, Andrew Bird, Jon Brion, Ani DiFranco, Grant Lee Phillips and Fiona Apple all contribute to the album, and it's the rare music album from a comedian that works as a listening experience even if you're not chuckling. And if this album mirrors most of Cho's comic obsessions -- sex, queer culture, getting high and wildly dysfunctional relationships -- the jokes, like those in her stand-up act, are generally pretty clever, and when Cho goes for simple bad taste on "My Puss," she's still pretty damn funny. Cho Dependent isn't as much of a game changer as I'm the One That I Want, but like that album it reveals there's more to Cho than her previous work would expect, and she'd be well advised to keep songwriting on her "to-do" list. ~ Mark Deming