On their debut album, the members of Waxwing set the standard for melodic punk rock, using the loud/soft dynamic and introspective lyrics to full effect. Though For Madmen Only, on a whole, is not as powerful or multifaceted as One for the Ride or Nobody Can Take What Everybody Owns, the record still highlights Rocky Votolato's brilliant songwriting and his ability to masterfully combine punk and folk. "Corner Store," for example -- which has both a hushed, ominous feeling and bombastic vibe -- effortlessly outperforms the likes of Jimmy Eat World or Further Seems Forever. "Starfish," in its most quiet moments, and the sublime "Keep This Up" (which even mentions the Palace Brothers singing songs about horses) set the stage for Votolato's solo work, and "Spanish Quartet" hints at the band's later incorporations of Southwestern music. For Madmen Only finds Waxwing traveling similar territory to the Casket Lottery, but originating from a gentler place. It's clear why Rocky Votolato's work has been such an inspiration on Dashboard Confessional -- but this record exhibits the original.
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AllMusic Review by Charles Spano