Almost ten years after MY AIM IS TRUE and THIS YEAR'S MODEL made him new wave's great white hope, Elvis Costello was tired -- from pills, from nonstop recording and touring, from critical hosannas coupled with commercial uncertainty. He knew he had to regroup. He did so brilliantly on KING OF AMERICA, a hymn to a pop star who never was. He set his songs to a ragged, country-tinged soundtrack and recorded them with an impressive array of studio help, from sympatico producer T-Bone Burnett to members of that other Elvis's fabled "T.C.B." backup band. On the first track, Costello, with typical extravagance, combines observations on global commercialism, the vapidity of the electronic news media, the viciousness of sexual politics, and -- oh yes -- the uneasy plight of the singer himself: "I was a fine idea at the time," he sings; "Now I'm a brilliant mistake." Costello is similarly unforgiving in a closing suite of songs -- "Jack of All Parades," "Suit of Lights," and "Sleep of the Just" -- most memorably in his portrait of a singer who "went out to work that night and wasted his breath." Self-loathing has rarely made for such elegant and controlled art. The Rykodisc reissue of the original 1986 Columbia album contains five additional Costello songs from the period and a bonus six-song live disc; it's quite a package.