Teen-pop sensations Hanson have completed three songs produced by former Cars leader Ric Ocasek for the follow-up to their eight-times platinum 1997 debut, Middle of Nowhere, according to a source at their label.
The songs, penned by the brothers who make up the Oklahoma pop group, have no titles yet. Ocasek is one of several producers who will be working with the three blond-haired Hanson siblings.
"They have three songs done and in the can," said the Mercury Records source, who requested anonymity. "They finished them about a week ago in Los Angeles, and they plan on working with several different producers on the rest of it." A release date has not been set for the still-untitled album.
According to the source, the trio have written more than 20 songs for the album, on which they were expected to return to work following their appearance Saturday in Pasadena, Calif., performing the National Anthem at the final of the Women's World Cup soccer championships.
The Hanson brothers Isaac, 18, Taylor, 16, and Zack, 13 burst out of Tulsa, Okla., in 1997 with a sound that mixed the classic Motown pop of the Jackson 5 and subtle modern touches such as scratching, courtesy of one-time Beck producers the Dust Brothers. Unlike their debut, which featured such hits as "MMMBop"
(RealAudio excerpt) and "Weird" (RealAudio excerpt), co-written by the group and a number of professional songwriters, the new tracks were all penned solely by the brothers, according to the Mercury source.
"Hanson might seem like an off-the-wall project for me, but not really," Ocasek said in a recent issue of Billboard magazine. Ocasek, who sang and wrote songs for the '80s new-wave sensations the Cars, produced pop-rockers Weezer's 1994 self-titled debut, as well as albums by such pop bands as Nada Surf and, most recently, the upcoming album from lo-fi rockers Guided by Voices.
"You might even say that they're the other side of the coin from Guided by Voices," Ocasek continued, "in that you can hear threads of '60s pop in both bands. They both really love music, and it's apparent in that heartfelt sound that each band has."
The trio are credited with helping to launch the current sugary-pop renaissance by such ear-candy acts as the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.
Hot on the heels of Middle of Nowhere, the group's label rush-released the Christmas album Snowed In at the end of 1997, as well as two albums the following year, a collection of songs from the group's early years, Three Car Garage: Indie Recordings 1995-1996 and a live album, Live From Albertane.
A musician who helped the siblings hone their studio skills prior to recording, said the trio are some of the most dedicated musicians he's ever worked with.
"They're just like sponges in the studio," the musician, who requested anonymity, said. "They are some of the most talented musicians I've ever been in the studio with, and they just want to know about everything."
In February the group surprised nearly everyone by joining former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir at a 10th-anniversary show for the New York club Wetlands.
The three brothers bounded onstage midway through Weir's second set and joined the guitarist on a number of Grateful Dead concert staples, including Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" and the blues numbers "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" and "Wang Dang Doodle," returning for an encore of another Dead song, "One More Saturday Night."