MGMT's 'TSLAMP' Is a Weirdly Great Anthem About Smartphone Addiction

MGMT Little Dark Age
Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden of the indie-rock duo MGMT. Brad Elterman

MGMT has written a frighteningly resonant anthem about smartphone addiction—and here's an article about it that you can read on your smartphone.

"TSLAMP"—short for "Time Spent Looking at My Phone"—is the slyly dystopian centerpiece of the indie duo's very fun new album, Little Dark Age. The song boasts a shifty funk groove as singer Andrew VanWyngarden chronicles phone addiction in increasingly harrowing couplets: "I'm wondering where the hours went / As I'm losing consciousness / My sullen face is all aglow / Time spent looking at my phone." Then comes a straight-up flamenco guitar solo. (Why flamenco guitar? Don't question it.)

The subject is grim but relatable. The average adult spends nearly three hours a day on their smartphone. The figure is higher for millennials. And new research suggests that smartphone addiction is affecting brain functioning, making humans more vulnerable to distractions and anxiety.

MGMT's song is not, thankfully, a tedious public service announcement, and it does not mention any such statistics. The track's surreal approach is funnier and less preachy than Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" or St. Vincent's "Digital Witness"—similarly themed predecessors—as it twists the titular refrain into a sick mantra: "Time spent sitting all alone / Time spent looking at my phone."

VanWyngarden says that the song idea came to him while he was driving around. It was inspired by recurring frustration with his own iPhone addiction.

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"I really feel like the technology that I'm so attached to and that I see other people completely dependent on—it sometimes serves to just chip away your daily life from moments when you would be thinking about things and drifting off or daydreaming," VanWyngarden told Newsweek. "[Or] thinking revolutionary thoughts. Questioning what's happening. That effect happens through this [device] that we all carry around with us at all times."

There is a satirical disruption-gone-overboard theme threaded throughout Little Dark Age. The opener, "She Works Out Too Much," for example, is an oddball rumination on Tinder ("I'm constantly swiping it, tapping / It's never relaxing"). The digital motif is MGMT's way of making fun of themselves for being old—though the humor keeps the social critique airy and light.

"There's kind of this humor to it," VanWyngarden said. "Even though it's ultimately a messed up theme to sing about people and myself wasting their lives with this device."

Here's the song, if you can set aside your push notifications and newfangled gadgets long enough to listen.

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